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ELK - The Most Important Factor In The Comprehension Process Of Interpreting

Being a good interpreter could be considered as the top target of every foreign language learners. However, reaching that standard requires a lot of skills from the learners, more than just knowledge of two languages (Xiao Dan, 2006, p.25). And it is also recognized that the comprehension of the source language is more than just the 2 basic elements: recognition of words and linguistic structure. In his Basic Concepts and Models for Interpreter and Translator Training, Daniel Gile combined the necessary factors for an interpreter to have a good comprehension in the formula: C=KL + ELK + A in which C stands for Comprehension, KL represents Knowledge of the Language, ELK for Extra-Linguistic Knowledge and A - Analysis of the interpreter (Ping Li & Zhihong Lu, 2011, p.4). To us, ELK is the most important factor in the comprehension process of interpreting. Firstly, ELK means background knowledge or subject knowledge that is believed to play an integral part in interpreting. ELK can be pre-existing (Xiao Dan, 2006, p.25) that interpreters should have learned before the interpreting tasks and that could not be taught in language schools or universities. The truth is that in many cases, the interpreters are not to work in ideal situations; i.e. their tasks are unfamiliar, or abstract or even very difficult to understand, the interpreters have to combine all their skills, knowledge to convey the ideas, massages in the easiest way to understand to listeners. Thats when their background knowledge is called upon. If the interpreters level is high, then he will cope with the situation with ease that would very much satisfy the employer. On the contrary, without sufficient knowledge that is needed, even a very good language user could find it struggled in interpreting what the speaker says. For example, when the task is to interpret for a construction conference, but the interpreter did never approach anything related to construction would misunderstand the ideas or massages that leads to misinterpreting when he faces the jargons like shop drawings in brief, background knowledge (ELK) is such a real importance that could define the interpreters from good to bad because interpreting is not all linguistic language.

Secondly, cultural and specialized aspects are common problems that most interpreters are permanently faced with, as stated in The Nature and Role of Norms in Translation, Translation is a kind of activity which inevitably involves at least two languages and two cultural traditions." (Toury, 1978, p.200). Therefore, merely understanding the linguistic aspects does not

significantly help interpreters in delivering the information in source language (SL) to the audiences of the target language (TL). For instance, when working in a construction workshop between Vietnamese and American corporations, an inexperienced interpreter can misinterpret major concepts even though he has very good knowledge of both Vietnamese language and English language. In this case, is it no doubt that ELK is of great importance? Meanwhile KL just helps understanding the sounds of the speeches, not the contextual content of them. On the other hand, the cultural implications for translation may take several forms ranging from lexical content and syntax to ideologies and ways of life in a given culture. The translator also has to decide on the importance given to certain cultural aspects and to what extent it is necessary or desirable to translate them into the TL.

The definition of "culture" as given in the Concise Oxford Dictionary varies from descriptions of the "Arts" to plant and bacteria cultivation and includes a wide range of intermediary aspects. More specifically concerned with language and interpreting, Newmark defines culture as "the way of life and its manifestations that are peculiar to a community that uses a particular language as its means of expression" (1988:94), thus acknowledging that each language group has its own culturally specific features. He does "not regard language as a component or feature of culture" (Newmark 1988:95). Hence, understanding the linguistic aspects is just the first step of interpreting process. The most important step is to comprehend what is really meant by the words or speeches of speakers, which can be combined only by having broad background knowledge of fields such as social sciences, natural sciences, health, medicine, economics, etc.

Another fact supporting the outstanding role of extra-linguistic (ELK) compared to knowledge of language (KL) and analysis (A) is that even an interpreter with good analysis skill cannot fully comprehend all the speeches of the speaker. Because he may know lexical and syntactic aspects of the language well, or he can logically analyze what is being said by the speaker, he does not know exactly what the specifically cultural or specialized points that the speaker means.

In conclusion, though all of the three components in the formula C = KL + ELK + A are of great importance, ELK seems to be the most important one. Also, cultural and specialized aspects obviously are the main problems in which ELK is involved in the interpreting process. Good

understanding about the extra linguistic combined with good linguistic knowledge and logical analysis skill can help us, interpreters, accomplish interpretation tasks easily and effectively. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that we should make our efforts to equip ourselves with basic knowledge for latter career right from now.