Thursday, November 21, 2013
An interpreter translates the spoken word in two directions as opposed to a translator who translates the written word. Interpreters think and speak in two languages on the spot and generally without the aid of reference materials or other resources.
The most common types of interpreters are either consecutive or simultaneous. A consecutive interpreter is used in meetings such as medical appointments (doctor/patient situations), legal settings (lawyer/client situations), business meetings, phone calls and press conferences. Other situations where consecutive interpreting is used most frequently is in court settings and police interrogations.
In consecutive interpreting the speaker talks and pauses to allow the interpreter to translate in the target language for a portion or the entire speaker’s message. It is a stop/start process. The interpreter generally sits or stands beside the speaker, listening and taking notes when necessary. High-level interpreters have crafted techniques utilizing an intricate note taking ability and memory retention that can allow them to interpreter long speeches up to five or six minutes in length.
A classic example of simultaneous interpreting is a United Nations conference. At these meetings, it is common to see world leaders wearing headsets. While the main speaker is delivering his/her speech instantaneously, it is being interpreted to the recipient of that target language who is wearing a headset. While translating the words, the interpreter also conveys the right tone, intention and emotion of the speaker. During debates or confrontational speaking, the interpreter must demonstrate a high level of professionalism and diplomacy by conveying the appropriate meaning of the message as it is expressed. The role of an interpreter is extremely complex when dealing with individuals and two or more totally different languages.
Simultaneous interpreting is disseminated on the spot in live time. The interpreter is required to focus and listen every single moment analysing and conveying the message and ideas as they are intended the exact moment they are said. Frequently people speak quickly and the stress and pressure placed on simultaneous interpreters to keep up with the speaking can be significant.
The interpreter translates the message into the target language as quickly as he/she can formulate. While the source language speaker continuously speaks, the interpreter who is often sitting in a sound-proof booth is receiving the speech through his/her headset and speaking into a microphone and transmitting the target language to the recipient’s headset.
Simultaneous Interpreting is Challenging
Two interpreters are most often required for simultaneous interpreting assignments. This is due to the high-level of intensity of the task. The interpreter must focus intently, comprehend the spoken word, memorize and find linguistic solutions to the target language. Often when translated to the target language, sentence structures are changed and much thought is required to convey an intended meaning as opposed to pure verbatim translation of spoken words. As one can imagine this is not an easy task!
Simultaneous interpreting is both mentally and physically exhausting. Over 20 complex cognitive skills are used when interpreting. It requires an intensive concentration and focus to listen while others are speaking, to analyze and convey the message, ideas and tone. Published research shows that interpreters overlap speaking one language while listening to another up to 75% of the time. Therefore, most of the time, interpreters are activating two languages. They are hearing the source language and also monitoring their speech of the target language. They are required to know complex terminology and a high language level relating to topics of a legal, medical, geological, financial and economic nature to name a few. They have to do so not just at a high level in one language, but in two different languages.
Simultaneous interpreters generally work as a tag team. After approximately 30 minutes it is difficult to retain the focus and concentration required and the accuracy level diminishes. The speech generally moves quickly and interpreters generally do not get the opportunity to re-state their words if after second thought a better word choice would be better.
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