What happens when Vladimir Putin needs to talk to Barack Obama? Or John Key to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud? An interpreter is the essential but often invisible link in communication between the two. How do New Zealand businesses communicate in overseas markets? Their documents and websites need to be translated by a professional translator.

New Zealander Henry Liu, President of the International Federation of Translators, will address the 2015 Annual Conference of the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters. The theme of the conference is ‘Conflict and Communication’. The conference will take place at the National Library in Wellington on the weekend of 26th-28th June.

Henry Liu is the first New Zealander to head the International Federation of Translators, ‘the voice of the professional associations of translators, interpreters and terminologists around the world’. He has extensive experience of interpreting at the highest level, including working for heads of state.

Translators and interpreters are the vital link in many essential dialogues between two languages and cultures. When this dialogue occurs in an environment of conflict, their role is all the more indispensable, difficult and potentially dangerous. As the Federation states on its website:

‘With their dangerous, yet important jobs they guarantee at least a minimum of communication between the otherwise “speechless” parties in the conflict. As linguists committed to impartiality, they build bridges that overcome language and cultural barriers and thus help resolve situations where otherwise only weapons would speak. Yet the services of translators and interpreters lack the recognition they deserve and time and again they are regarded as traitors or collaborators by all the parties involved.’

One of the first actions of the Federation under Henry Liu’s presidency was to pass a resolution calling for protection of language professionals in conflict zones. (International Federation of Translators Resolution August 2014)

Stuart Prior, former New Zealand Ambassador to Russia and CEO of The Prior Group, will give the keynote address on Sleepwalking towards conflict?: The role of the interpreter in revolutionary times.

The NZSTI annual conference brings together language professionals from around New Zealand and the world to discuss these and other issues in an atmosphere of professional collaboration and learning.

The Welcome Function before the conference is proudly sponsored by the Wellington-based New Zealand Translation Centre Ltd (NZTC International) who are also taking this opportunity to celebrate their 30th year in business in the company of fellow industry professionals.

By Mandy Hewett, NZSTI conference team member