A Discussion with Mr. Sam and Mr. Miguel


After the conclusion of the second day of the conference, I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Sam and Mr. Miguel, the interpreters and translators of the conference. Interpretation refers to the direct conversion of the spoken language, while translation is the conversion of the text documents drafted and reviewed during the conference. Mr. Sam, a simultaneous interpreter of many years, highlighted the challenges and unique dynamic of international diplomacy with language barriers.

The conference was held officially in English and Spanish.  Portuguese was spoken as well. The delegates’ opinions and perspectives required interpretation for others in the room. In drafting resolutions and decisions, the Convention would often begin writing in both Spanish and English depending on the draftsman’s preference or which language could better express a legal concept. Mr. Sam noted how legal documentation has a unique lexicon for both English and Spanish; both languages have words with distinct legal meanings or intent and this provides one of the challenges in translating.  Particular care had to be taken that whatever was intended or drafted in one language was expressed accurately in the other.

Mr. Sam remarked that often the greatest challenge in translation for legal documents was whether to use direct translation or whether to adapt the translation to the different languages nuances. The interpreters noted that sometimes conjugates seemed appropriate but in legal use their applied meanings differ. They both commented that they did, however, enjoy the challenge. The use of interpreters kept a keen focus on the international aspect of the conference.