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Study of the Interpreting Techniques used by the Tourist Guides in the Tourism

Attractions of North Sumatra

[PP: 14-20]
Bambang Panca Syahputra
Department of General Linguistics, University of North Sumatra and UMSU Medan, Indonesia
Amrin Saragih
State University of Medan, Indonesia
Syahron Lubis
University of North Sumatra, Indonesia
Muhizar Muchtar
University of North Sumatra, Indonesia
Many techniques have been applied in the interpretation and translation in the field of tourism
guiding. This research paper focuses on the interpreting techniques of tour guides in North Sumatra.
It seeks the types and the capabilities of tour guides in interpretation of the meanings of heritage of
tourist destinations in North Sumatra. Data of this research were collected through document analysis,
interviews, and analyzed using interactive data analysis in ancient tombs of Kings Sidabutar and the
traditional house of Karonese Siwaluh Jabu at Dokan village in Karo district. The findings of this
study showed that there were eight interpreting techniques applied by the tour guides in consecutive
and liaison interpreting modes. The summarizing was the dominant technique. It was applied in order
to clarify the objects.
Keywords: Techniques, Interpreting, Tourism guiding, Attractions, North Sumatra
ARTICLE The paper received on Reviewed on Accepted after revisions on
INFO 20/05/2017 12/06/2017 19/08/2017
Suggested citation:
Syahputra, B., Saragih, A., Lubis, S. & Muchtar, M. (2017). Study of the Interpreting Techniques used by the
Tourist Guides in the Tourism Attractions of North Sumatra. International Journal of English Language &
Translation Studies. 5(3). 14-20.

1. Introduction focuses on the interpreting techniques of tour

In the current global tourism industry, guides in North Sumatra. It seeks the types
there is a need of skillful tourist guides for the and the capabilities of tour guides in
interpretation of the historical background of interpretation of the meanings of heritage of
tourist destinations and their uniqueness. tourist destinations in North Sumatra. The
Tourist guides in their interactions with potential of tourism development as a tool to
visitors deal with widely varying levels of contribute to economic growth and poverty
language, and as a result, language capability reduction is derived from several unique
with cultural knowledge helps the guides in characteristics of the tourism system. That’s
serving visitors. Moreover, culture is an why tourism represents an opportunity for
integral part of language and thought that lead economic diversification, particularly in
the cultural patterns, customs, behaviors, and marginal areas with few other export options.
ways of life. Thus, it covers people’s way of Moscardo (2003) stated that effective
thinking either implicitly or explicitly. interpretation can contribute to sustainable
Newmark contends that culture is defined as tourism and recreation in two main ways. It
the way of life and its manifestations are would enhance the quality of the experience
peculiar to a community that uses a particular for visitors and encourage continued visitor
language as its means of expression. interest in the activity, thus creating economic
(1988:94). Thus, the socio-culture of the sustainability.
society has great influence on the language Nurullah (2014) also argues the
use in the human interactions. Panou (2013) complexity of translation, since it takes many
also believes that there is a dual objective of aspects. Effendi (2004: 22) also asserts that
pure translation studies. Firstly, to provide a the translating-interpreting agent is now
description of the various translation emerging to be a key position in high level of
phenomena as these occur and secondly, to communication and be more momentous in
develop general principles through which intermediating various types of business
these phenomena can be adequately activities both among parties or individuals,
explained. In this respect, this research paper especially in many developing countries
Study of the Interpreting Techniques.. Bambang Syahputra, Amrin Saragih, Syahron Lubis & Muhizar Muchtar

beginning to go international, like Indonesia. tourism. They are often called tourism
Additionally, an interpreter should have total ambassadors of destinations (Rabotic, 2007).
mastery of his/her mother tongue, and the Nowadays, tourist guiding has
ability to express objects fluently, complex roles in relation to ecotourism
grammatically and precisely in the target including the internally oriented role of
language. With accurate and extensive interpreter of natural resources (Weiler;
vocabularies, then, they reflect finer shades of Davis, 1993). Interpreting skill has
meaning on a broad range of topics (Jones, contributed greatly to tourists’ attitude and
2002: 9). Jones (2002: 3) also argues about behavior as well. Interpretation is a means of
the different bodies of knowledge, different tourism management aimed at explaining
educations and different cultures, and as well visitors and tourists the importance of various
as intellectual approaches. The results of natural and cultural attractions at a destination
interpreting thus are non-correctable and non- so as to spur comprehension, positive
verifiable (Shuttle worth and Cowie, 1997; impression, admiration, i.e. to raise
Jones, 2002: 6). After hearing everything, consciousness on responsible behavior in the
interpreters begin to understand and make the function of local heritage preservation.
most efficient ways in the moment of opening Interpretation serves to enhance enjoyment of
mouths. tourists by transferring to them symbolic
In today's international tourism meanings and facilitating changes in their
industry, there are hardly any possibilities attitudes and behaviour: this is why it
without the services of tour guides as represents the key for establishing intellectual
mediators as at some destination, resources and emotional connections between the
are unavailable to visitors or are not provided visitor and particular destinations (Rabotic,
by the respective governments or companies. 2007).
Therefore, skilled tour guide is necessary for A tour guide frequently faces many
visitor, and the more the tour guide is in a obstacles, particularly when s/he performs
position to express the speaker’s idea in their oral translation or interpreting activities. Two
own words, the better will be the quality of languages are involved in the spoken
communication between the speaker and the translation which generally differ both in
tourists. terms of linguistic and cultural systems, and
Based on the results of the MICE the limited time available to the interpreter in
convention (Meeting Convention and transferring the message. Furthermore, the
Exhibition) industry 2015 at Politeknik activity of a tour guide in interpreting the
Medan, which revealed that while facing the source language message also greatly
Asean Economic Community (AEC) at the depends on the clarity of the speech uttered by
end of 2015, the tourism sector in North the source language people and their basic
Sumatra faced a serious problem, especially knowledge in understanding, analyzing and
the lack of human resources (human re-expressing the source language and doing
resources). Globally Indonesian tourism so very quickly and while working under
sector occupies position 17 as a tourism stress and time pressure. The interpreter
destination. The contribution to the should have a speech which they have
development of the tourism sector is still 9%. understood and analyzed (Jones, 2002: 35).
The same were reported during the meeting of The clarity of utterances of the speaker
ASPPI (Association of Indonesian Tourism requires more correctness and adjustments for
Performer) at Hotel Soechi on October 28, accurate interpretations. Misunderstanding
2013 which revealed that the issue of human between the tour guides’ intention and
resources becomes a major problem in tourists’ perceptions should be avoided.
addition to infrastructure problems and In observation at two locations in
government policies. These three problems North Sumatra, it was found that the
have a great impact on the tourism industry, interpreting activity was performed by two
especially in North Sumatra. tour guides. They were local tour guides who
The quality of natural resources of the used Indonesian and English speaking guide
tourism industry cannot be separated from the from the travel agencies who acted as the
role of stakeholders. One of them is the interpreters. Interpreting is done alternately
quality of tour guides as tourism from Indonesian into English in servicing of
ambassadors. Introducing the local heritage, tourists. The visitors came from various
living culture, values and cultural identity in Asian and European countries as well as from
general is the key component of the other areas in Northern Sumatra. This activity
contemporary guide's role. Tourist guides are took place in the village of Tomok at the
put in the front-line of professionals. They ancient tombs of Raja Sidabutar in the Lake
influence the contact with visitors and at the Toba and the traditional house of Karonese
same time protect the interests of sustainable Siwaluh Jabu at Dokan village in Karo
district. Both tour guides informed travelers
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about the history of the tomb stone, the lives thoughts and ideas from one language to
of kings who led in the region and also another, whether the languages are in written
information about how the traditional house or oral form; whether the languages have
Siwaluh Jabu was built. established orthographies or do not have such
In interpreting, the first step is to standardization; or whether one or both
understand the interpreter’s consecutive idea languages is based on signs, as with sign
(s). This understanding would greatly depend languages of the deaf.
on the arrangement of the words used to Interpretation can be defined in a
express the speaker in the idea. Obviously, an nutshell as conveying understanding. Its
interpreter cannot understand ideas if he does usefulness stems from the fact that a speaker’s
not know the words the speaker is using to meaning is best expressed in his or her native
express them, or if you are not acquainted tongue but is best understood in the languages
sufficiently with the grammar and syntax of of the listeners. In addition, the respect shown
the speakers’ language to follow the ideas by addressing an interlocutor in that person’s
(Jones, 2002: 11). However, the success of own language is conducive to successful
doing his/ her job as an interpreter is also diplomacy or negotiation. By bridging the gap
influenced by some other factors such as-: between languages, the interpreter helps
a. Who are the audience? Are they students, speakers to discharge their duty to make them
diplomats, businessmen, workers? understood and helps listeners to satisfy their
b. What is the audiences’ nationality? need to understand.
c. What do listeners expect from the According to Pochhacker (2002: 2)
conference? interpreting can be defined most broadly as
d. What is their cultural backgrounds? interlingual, intercultural, oral or signed
e. What is their mother tongue? mediation, enabling communication between
f. Did the language they hear was same as individuals or groups who do not share, or do
their own language? not choose to use, the same language(s). The
g. Do the interpreters need to adjust their person who speaks both languages, to explain
language with their listeners’ so that they what each is saying in turn is called an
could comprehend it well? interpreter, Jones (2002: 3). Furthermore he
h. How good is the knowledge of the subject explained that interpreting is about
matter or topic heard? communication whether the interpreters find
i. Do they require additional explanation? themselves in a room with two individuals
j. Do the interpreters need to explain the and two languages or in a large conference
meaning of a particular term? Nababan hall with hundreds of participants and
(2004: 65). multiplicity of languages.
Translation could be defined as 2.2 The Role of the Interpreter
the result of a linguistic-textual operation in For the Greeks, the term “interpreter”
which a text in one language is re- or “translator” meant “a person who acts like
contextualized in another language. Thus, Hermes,” a human being who performs one of
House (2015) contends the linguistic textual this god’s numerous activities (including
operation in translation. With reference to the linguistic ones). The Greek concept
above discussion. With this background, the emphasizes the divine and to lesser extent, the
researcher felt interested in analyzing the intellectual character, the Latin equivalent
technique of interpreting applied in the defines the down-to-earth situation of the
tourism services, involving interpreting person interpreting. The word “interpres” is
process by tourist guides at the ancient tomb derived from “inter-parties” or “inter-
of King Sidabutar in Tomok village, and pretium” , the term designates the human
Samosir Island. mediator positioned linguistic mediation
2. Review of the Related Literature between two parties or values, performing far
2.1 Interpreting more diverse activities than simply providing
Traditionally, interpreting has been parties transacting business, Alfred Hermann
subsumed under translation, which, in its in Pochhacker (2002: 18) .
broadest sense, has been defined as the Interpreters are very important to
transfer of thoughts and ideas from one avoid communication barrier. The interpreter
language (source) to another (target). is an essential link between the
Proceeding from this general definition of communicating parties, since the interpreter
translation, practitioners have created a helps both parties to express themselves to the
distinction between spoken messages and full extent of their mother tongue. Interpreters
written messages. Saleskovitch (1978: 2) only exist because of language barrier as the
states “Translation converts a written text into first and foremost linguistic. Professional
another written text, while interpretation interpreters often describe their role as the
converts an oral message into another oral person in the middle by using a metaphor
message. Interpreting is the transfer of along with metaphorical language which says
Cite this article as: Syahputra, B., Saragih, A., Lubis, S. & Muchtar, M. (2017). Study of the Interpreting
Techniques used by the Tourist Guides in the Tourism Attractions of North Sumatra. International Journal of
English Language & Translation Studies. 5(3). 14-20.
Page | 16
Study of the Interpreting Techniques.. Bambang Syahputra, Amrin Saragih, Syahron Lubis & Muhizar Muchtar

that they serve as a kind of channel or bridge structure are revealed only piecemeal and can
through which communication between two thus be accessed more effectively via texture,
people can happen. What this channel does is i.e. the words as they are spoken.
complex. Interpreters are required to Simultaneous interpreters normally
reproduce a message from one speaker to works in teams of two per booth, taking turns
another faithfully, accurately, and without in shifts of about 30 minutes each of
emotional or personal bias entering into the maximum of about three hours at a time,
interpretation. In other words, interpreters which has been found to be the maximum
must simultaneously render message without average time during which the necessary
changing the message’s intent and do so with concentration and accuracy can be sustained.
uncommon accuracy, while maintaining a For certain language combination, relay or
stance of impartiality and neutrality. To be two step are used sometimes the source
specific, interpreters may not introduce language is interpreted in one booth from
topics, change topics, ask questions of their language A into language B, and then in
own, interject their opinion or give advice, another booth from language B into language
and most importantly, must keep the entire C.
transaction confidential. Cynthia B. Roy in Based on the explanation proposed by
Pochhacker (2002:347). Interpreters must several experts, it can be drawn out that the
obviously have sufficient linguistic interpreter should bear in mind to apply
knowledge if they are to translate correctly. significant anticipations before conducting
People from different countries may not only interpreting in simultaneous mode.
speak different languages but have behind 2.3.2 Consecutive Interpretation
them different bodies of knowledge, different Pochhacker (2004) stated that
educations, different cultures, and therefore consecutive interpreting is one of the modes
different intellectual approaches. The of interpreting that is identified based on the
cultural difficulties referred can manifest both pace of time of the rendering. In consecutive
explicitly and implicitly. interpreting the utterances of the speaker may
In all of their work, interpreters must be uttered in certain pace of time when the
bridge the cultural and conceptual gaps speaker makes a pause then the interpreter
separating the participants in a meeting. The starts to interpret the message of the source
interpreter should have something of a language to the target language. This type of
pedagogical streak, their work being one of mode is conducted based on the needs of the
continuous explanation and explication. user (client).
Unlike a teacher, an interpreter does not In consecutive interpreting, the
express their own message; but like a teacher, interpreter alternates with the speaker,
their task is to make sure that the message is translating SL speech segments of at least
genuinely assimilated by the audience. several sentences after the speaker has
2.3 Modes of Interpreting completed them and has paused for
There are several styles of translation. Consecutive interpreting can
interpreting in active use today. A language therefore be viewed as a two-phase process;
professional who intends to interpret in listening phase, during which the interpreter
multiple fields needs to be taken into makes a target language speech from memory
consideration these modes some of which call and from notes.
for very different skills and aptitudes than The interpretation of the complete
others. There are three principal modes of message is delivered after the speaker has
interpreting namely, simultaneous, stopped producing the source utterances.
consecutive and the liaison (Hatim and When the interpretation is rendered and the
Mason, 1997) interpreter is the only person in the
2.3.1 Simultaneous Interpretation communication environment who is
In simultaneous interpretation the producing the message. Consecutive
audience can hear a translation of a speech interpretation is rendered as 'short CI' and
while it is being delivered. The interpreters 'long CI'. In short CI, the interpreter relies on
are placed in more or less sound-proofs memory; each message segment being brief
booths where they receive the speech through enough to memorize. In long CI, the
earphones; they transmit it in another interpreter takes notes of the message to aid
language through microphones to wireless or rendering long passages. These informal
telephone sets in the hall which the audience divisions are established with the client
can tune in to the booth. As the description before the interpretation is effected,
simultaneous interpretation indicates, it is depending upon the subject, its complexity,
usually assumed that the interpreter repeats in and the purpose of the interpretation.
one language what he hears in another, Eva
Paneth in Pochhacker (2002: 32). In the case
of simultaneous interpreting, context and
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Jones (2002: 11) formulated three technique as “salami” or a slicing up a

basic stages of a consecutive interpreter’s sentence rather as one might cut slices of
work namely understanding, analyzing, and salami.
re-expressing. c. Efficiency in reformulation
a. Understanding Jones (1998: 106) stated that the
The understanding refers to ideas, for simultaneous interpreter is constantly under
it is ideas that have to be interpreted. pressure, having to produce his own
Obviously, we cannot understand ideas if we interpretation at the same speed as the
do not know the words the speaker is using to speaker, but with added burden of having to
express them, or if we are not acquainted translate and not knowing where he is going,
sufficiently with the grammar and syntax of the need to be able to reformulate so as to
the speaker’s language to follow the ideas. express oneself efficiently exists for all
The interpreter must listen to everything and languages, but it should be noted that for
keep asking; what does the speaker means? some languages it is more acute than others.
What are the ideas they want to express? d. Simplification
b. Analysis An interpreter in every time of his
In this principle, the interpreter may works is sometimes faced with highly
proceed to an analysis of the speech. The first technical material. For such speeches, it is
question to ask is what kind of speech is being desirable to simplify a speech. (Jones,
dealt with. Speeches may be of many 1998:108) mentioned two reasons for making
different kinds, such as reasoned, logical a simplification; it may be that the speech is
argument, narrative, chronological sequence, so technical. In that case, the interpreter must
descriptive, purely rhetorical, etc. An at least try to save the essentials by
interpreter must first of all know what is simplification. Second, the speaker may be
important in their comments and what is talking over the heads of his audience. The
secondary, what is essential and what faithful rendering would just leave the
accessory. He must, therefore, identify the audience confused. Jones added that the first
main ideas, and know they are the main ideas. duty of interpreter is not so much to be
Consecutive interpreting is faithful but to maximize the communication.
considered equal to simultaneous interpreting e. Generalization
in terms of applying the basic principle. They Jones (1998:112) states that an
are the same as listening, understanding, interpreter does not feel that technical
analyzing, and re-expressing. In both cases simplification is necessary for either of the
the interpreter is indulging in the same basic reasons mentioned above, but that to save
intellectual activities. Jones (2002: 66). time perhaps with a very fast speaker, a
Interpreting techniques are number of specific items mentioned can be
techniques which are used to facilitate an expressed in one generic term. For example:
interpreter in reproducing the closest Speaker: “People take it for granted
equivalent rendition from SL text into TL now to have a fridge and a freezer, the dish-
text. Those techniques are specifically water and the washing machine with a spin -
elaborated below: dryer, a cooker and vacuum cleaner” The
a. Reformulation interpreter can generalize (in the sense of
Jones (2002:80) stated that an using a generic term) as follows:
interpreter needs to reformulate the wording Interpreter: “People take it for granted
of the original to maintain the right distance now to have all household electrical
from the speaker. Long and complicated appliances” Jones (1998:112).
sentences are to be broken down into a series f. (Under duress and fast speaker)
of easier, shorter ones; relative and The technique of omission cannot be
subordinate clauses can be shifted around avoided in transferring the message from
within a sentence; active clauses changed into source language to target language. Jones
passive(or vice versa) and so on. The (1998:112) describes that the deletion of
interpreter must, therefore, seize upon information can be the strategies when the
reformulation as the tool that will enable him interpreter faces under duress due to the
to deal with all kinds of difficulties while technical term of a subject, mode of the
remaining as true as the possible speaker. expression of the speaker, and the speaker
b. Salami Technique speaks too fast. Therefore, he suggested two
Speakers, however, in simultaneous ways that can be done- keep the essential
mode of interpreting may-indeed, usually do- elements and miss out only what is illustrative
use long, complicated sentences. The logical or in some way accessory such as asides,
conclusion is that the interpreter must divide digressions, etc.
up the speaker’s sentences into a number of g. Summarizing
short, self- contained ones and then link them Adding information can also be the
as appropriate. Jones (1998) uses this techniques which are frequently done by the
Cite this article as: Syahputra, B., Saragih, A., Lubis, S. & Muchtar, M. (2017). Study of the Interpreting
Techniques used by the Tourist Guides in the Tourism Attractions of North Sumatra. International Journal of
English Language & Translation Studies. 5(3). 14-20.
Page | 18
Study of the Interpreting Techniques.. Bambang Syahputra, Amrin Saragih, Syahron Lubis & Muhizar Muchtar

interpreter. Jones (1998: 1104) stresses that the interpreting was also interviewed to get
the interpreter should not edit what the the background and identity of the interpreter.
speaker said in the source language in order 4. Findings and Discussion
to ensure full understanding on the part of the The findings of the data analysis
audience. He suggests the interpreter should revealed that there were two modes of
add things. First, an interpreter may wish to interpreting used mostly- consecutive and
recapitulate what a speaker has already said liaison interpreting modes. Both interpreting
and what they themselves have already modes had varied frequency. The most
interpreted, if they feel the audience may have dominant technique was applied by the tour
failed to grasp the point. Summarizing here is guide at the ancient tombs of kings Sidabutar
not being used in the sense of providing a which are tabulated below-
summary that replaces the full text. It is a Table 1: Interpreting Techniques at the Tombs
summary that is added to the full text. of Kings Sidabutar
h. Explanation
The interpreter maybe faced with
notions, cultural, or institutional references
that have no direct equivalent in the target
language and it should be explained to the
audience. However, the problem is that this
takes time. The interpreter can use this
technique of explanation if the notion Table: 2 Interpreting Techniques at the
delivered by the speaker is repeatedly in a Traditional House of Siwaluh Jabu
speech. Then, the interpreter can explain its
meaning the first time it is mentioned and
thereafter refer to it an abbreviated form, thus Thus, the results of the analysis
saving time. showed a combination of summarizing with
i. Anticipation other techniques such as with explanation,
Jones (1998:116) suggests that an specification, and reformulation. The use of
interpreter should take anticipation when he summarizing technique aims to ensure a full
often begins a sentence without knowing understanding on the part of the audience in
exactly where the sentence is going. The order to avoid from the failure to grasp the
anticipation can be possible from the context point uttered by the source language speaker.
of a meeting. For instance, a discussion or In consecutive mode, the interpreter has more
negotiation delegations’ positions or time than in simultaneous mode. This time
arguments will become known, return to availability will enable the interpreter to add
points they have already made by other more information and to clarify what is
participants. unclear by the speaker. There are two
3. Methodology different modes of interpreting applied by the
This research applied a qualitative tour guide when facilitating tourists at the
method to seek the types of techniques used ancient tomb of Raja Sidabutar and the
by interpreters in three tourist destinations of traditional house of Siwaluh Jabu, namely;
North Sumatra. It used the product or the The consecutive interpreting and
work of translation as corpus of analysis. The liaison interpreting modes were mapped out
transcriptions of speeches were used as raw as: the interaction model of the liaison
data. Data was collected at the tomb of the interpreting in Siwaluh Jabu consisting of
king Sidabutar, traditional house of Siwaluh four parties with three different languages;
Jabu Dokan village of North Sumatra. The Indonesian, English, and Greek. The
data were in the form of oral interpretation bilingual interpreter takes an important role to
from the interaction by the tour guide who bridge the information in both language A and
acted as the interpreter, the local guide and the language B. Interpreter as a mediator of the
tour leader which were documented in audio monolingual speaker A in giving some
recording media player (mp3 audio) with the information or ideas to monolingual B and
source language of Indonesian and its then mediator 2 render the information to
rendition interpreted by the interpreter into mono lingual C.
English language. Those data were then 5. Conclusion
transcribed into written texts. The secondary Some conclusions can be drawn as
data were obtained from the observation and follow: It was found there were seven
interview with the informants who knew the interpreting techniques applied to tourist
tour guide’s background. This information activities at the tomb of King Sidabutar. The
was useful to explore the initial competency techniques included- the combination of
that has been owned by the interpreter. The Explanation and summarizing or
interpreter who was in charge of conducting Recapitulating technique, summarizing and
Recapitulation technique, Specification
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technique, combination of Summarizing and Civilizations. Journal of Science and

specification technique, reformulation Today's World, 3, 130-136.
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the speech of the source language into the Pochhacker, Franz. (2002). The Interpreting
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recapitulation technique (41.66%). There Guides as Mediators in Cultural
were two different modes of interpreting Tourism. Proceeding. The Third
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Cite this article as: Syahputra, B., Saragih, A., Lubis, S. & Muchtar, M. (2017). Study of the Interpreting
Techniques used by the Tourist Guides in the Tourism Attractions of North Sumatra. International Journal of
English Language & Translation Studies. 5(3). 14-20.
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