How did it start?
Simultaneous interpretation, or conference interpreting, is a profession that came into being rather recently. Consecutive interpretation as a profession came into existence in the 20th century, with its initial usage taking place at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles at the conclusion of the First World War. Before then, French had been the language of diplomacy, but the importance of English was growing after the War, for reasons that were readily apparent. As a result, it was necessary in these meetings for there to be translations between English and French. In the period between World War One and World War Two, a team of interpreters was created that worked in the English-French language pair at the United Nations.
Another perspective taken by some authors is that simultaneous interpretation was first used in the Nuremberg Trials after World War Two. Following the success of this important historical event’s interpretation services, the UN then heightened its interest. Consecutive interpretation, which had been used until that time, consumed too much time in the process. In spite of the reluctance that came with this new modality, it slowly gained influence until it converted itself into the most widely used technique in the world today.
What is simultaneous interpretation?
Simultaneous interpretation is performed when a speaker talks and the interpreter transmits the message in a different language in real time. However, this technique is not done simultaneously, as the name suggests. There must always be a pause between the speaker’s words and the interpreter’s translation, since the latter must analyze, process, and translate the idea. All of this takes place in a matter of seconds! Since, according to studies, the maximum number of words that the human mind can retain at one time is 9 or 10, the interpreter must speak with a difference of only about 3 or 4 words so as to not lost the main concept of the speech or to “forget” or omit essential information that the audience needs in order to understand.
In addition to all this, special equipment (soundproof booths, microphones, earpieces, among others) is required. The audience listens to the target language through a system of receivers and headphones that today is completely wireless.
Where is this type of interpretation performed?
In general, this service is performed in conferences, large meetings, seminars, multilingual events, conventions, workshops, and any other type of event with a large audience. This is why soundproof booths with the intricate audio system, as mentioned above, are generally used.
What does the interpreter’s job consist of?
To be a simultaneous interpreter, having a working knowledge of the two languages is not sufficient. What is also of primary importance is the interpreter’s knowledge of the subject matter. The time necessary for preparation depends on each person. Let’s consider an interpreter who is working at a conference from 8 AM to 12 PM and 2 PM to 6 PM. The time they would need to prepare for a particular meeting will depend on their prior knowledge of the topic, the time they have available, their sense of responsibility, among other factors. Prior knowledge of the subject of the meeting or conference is very important for the interpreter’s performance. It is apparent that they need to know more than just the topics at hand, but also the specific vocabulary of each event, since it is possible that, in a meeting, terms may be brought up that are unfamiliar, even in the language of origin. There is the expectation that interpreters will never talk about something they know nothing about. This is not just in regards to understanding the language of origin or not, but also being able to use words in their mother tongue that they have never seen or read: this is where preparation comes into play. They can prepare themselves using speeches or documents for the meeting in question, newspapers, specialized journals, reference books, encyclopedias, the Internet, glossaries, etc.
To perform their work, interpreters sit in a booth, listen to the speech given in the speaker’s chosen language (language B) and transmits the content in their target language (language A). In general, interpreters work in pairs. This gives them the possibility of alternating between speaking and translating the message for the other. The non-speaker can write down dates, names, streets, cities, numbers, and can even research an unfamiliar term on the Internet or through consultation with another expert in the field. This system allows the interpreter who is speaking at that moment to focus on the general idea of the speech, the speaker’s accent, the level of knowledge of a foreign language if the speaker is using one, the reading of a written text, the speed at which the speech is given, poor quality of a speaker, etc.
If you are in need of simultaneous interpretation services, visit Trusted Translation’s interpretation page.