April 10th, 2010
Interpreters are a valuable asset for most countries in terms of foreign relations. While we live in country that deludes itself in thinking English is the most global language, and there is little need to learn another, languages such as Chinese and Korean traverse the globe in matters of commerce and foreign affairs. English may be a popular language in the Western countries, but it is still a helpful asset to be able to speak to diplomats in their native tongue. As a result, interpreters have become a valuable resource throughout foreign relations. Our nations are becoming even more heavily intertwined with the growing globalization, and as a result, more languages are infiltrating global affairs than ever before.
One popular interpreter job exists due to our current engagement in the Middle East. Interpreters are important to soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan because it can help them understand what the citizens are telling them, as well as communicate with the police forces of the country. Without this type of direct communication, any attempt at a diplomatic end to hostilities would be nearly impossible. We owe many soldiers’ lives to the dedication of interpreters from these countries who have risked their lives to provide assistance to our own military operation.
Interpreters often do not lead extremely safe lives, especially those who work for the military or journalists in war zones. There was much discussion about the role of interpreters after Sultan Munadi, an interpreter for the New York Times, was killed in a British commando raid in Afghanistan. However, there has not been much written about the great service these interpreters provide to American soldiers, especially at the great cost to their and their families lives. There is additionally the problem of what we will do to the safety of interpreters once we leave these countries and seemingly forget about them, despite their years of protection and service to our country. We are still hopeful that our country will do the right thing and continue to protect these great men and women who have risked their lives to help our nation succeed in the War on Terror. Captain Tim Hsia agrees, contending that forgetting about interpreters “would be violating a fundamental truth in the U.S. military of never leaving a man behind.”
Not all interpreter jobs involve the type of danger that the Middle East and military engagements present, but in fact are present at many United Nations meetings or other diplomatic events which require interpreters. Most diplomats who fly in for UN meetings hire interpreters to follow them throughout their visit, most interpreters holding longstanding positions with these types of political engagements. The knowledge of language is slowly slipping away, especially in the United States, a nation where many of us do not know a second language, but interpreters have succeeded in becoming fluent in several languages, a feat to be admired for sure.