The Interpreting Wisdom of C-3PO

It’s finally upon us: the new Star Wars movie, just in time for the holidays! As a long-time fan of the entire Star Wars saga, I could not miss watching Episode VII: The Force Awakens when it was released nationwide. And while I have mixed feelings about some of the characters’ value to the overall theme of good versus bad (here’s looking at you, Jar Jar Binks), C3PO stands out in terms of his role as a “protocol-etiquette droid”. Or, as Goldenrod (Han Solo’s nickname for C3PO) indicated, it was simply an interpreter. Can anything be learned from this long-winded machine?

Fluent in six million forms of communication, both human and machine-based, 3PO is, at heart, a machine that can just as easily interact with complex computer languages as with Ewoks and Wookies. Yet, he consistently complains about his lot in life: in A New Hope, he expressed that he was being “made to suffer”, and as Michael Cronin states in his book “Translation Goes to the Movies”, he is not simply “impersonally transmitting transmitted material, but he is represented as being acutely sensitive to the implications of his translation for his target audience.” In Return of the Jedi, we see C-3PO caught in the interpreting dilemma between Jabba the Hutt and a greedy bounty hunter holding a thermonuclear device. 3PO communicates Jabba’s final offer and makes a final, personal plea to the bounty hunter: “Jabba offers the sum of 35[000] and I do suggest you take it.”

While Interpreters on this side of the galaxy may not have to confront a Jabba the Hutt-type of despot or a beeping astrodroid on a mission to save the Alliance, being sensitive to the implications of one’s translation for the target audience is a must. It does not necessarily imply adopting 3PO’s pessimistic approach, but the Interpreter can tap into the Light side of the Force and stay calm, confident and positive while interpreting difficult subject matters.

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