Neil Munro has spent his entire professional career working as an interpreter at the European institutions and has acquired extensive experience of testing – initially as a victim (or should that be as a candidate?!) and subsequently as a speaker and selection board member.
As he heads into the twilight zone he shares some thoughts on what he considers to have been perhaps the most significant change in the approach to interpreting tests over the last 40 years. This is the crucial role now played by the so-called ‘pure customer’, in other words by the member of a Selection Board who listens only to the interpretation without comparing it to the original speech. As ‘pure customer’ you are uniquely placed to judge an interpreting performance in terms of how convincing it sounds, how plausible the content appears and how coherent the overall message is. Obviously this can only be part of the assessment as an altogether convincing, plausible and coherent account could be based on a compelling set of alternative facts. However, if the pure customer is struggling to follow, the chances are very strong that the interpretation is not a success.1