Interpretation is most effective when its form and content are adapted to the situations in which it will be presented. Although many developed countries have a long and rich tradition of interpretation, the physical, financial, and socio-economic, differences among and within developing nations suggest that this tradition will not always apply there. As our colleagues in developing countries look for interchange and suggestions, the temptation to impose our model—and the difficulty for them to accept it—will be great.
Interpreters in developing countries need to pursue a different model—one which gives relative emphasis to interpretation's role in strategic environmental education for target audiences. Though not altogether excluding the visitor service function that is frequently emphasized in US protected areas, interpretive programmes in many developing countries are often included as just one component of country-wide environmental education master-plans aimed at establishing sustainable development as a national ideology.
Host countries sometimes accept the conventional model too readily, often because the only available training materials are translated from these sources. When application falls short of expectations, in-country interpreters usually blame themselves or conclude that interpretation ‘just isn't for us—rather than questioning the model they have been handed. Universities must also share some of the responsibility for this sorry state of affairs. International students studying at US or European institutions sometimes return home better prepared to work as interpreters in those countries’ protected areas than in those in their own countries. Trainers and teachers, whether working at home or elsewhere, need to do a better job of listening to their students. They need to learn what it is like to be an interpreter in that student's country, and they need to learn what it is like to be part of the audience. Would we accept anything less of our own mentors and interpretive trainers?
Clearly, a superior strategy to exporting our model of interpretation is to assist developing countries in arriving at their own. Over many decades, interpreters in the US and other developed countries have developed a profound knowledge about their craft. Although much of it will not apply everywhere, some of our ideas may have widespread application. The key will be to determine which ones these are. Working with our developed country colleagues, learning with them and through them, we can explore together a range of possibilities that neither of us is able to envision alone. Filtered through our cultures and individual realities, the ideas which have merit will be identified and put to test. Others will be rejected. In the very best scenario, both parties will learn, and sustainable environmental quality will be the result.