Simultaneous interpretation

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Simultaneous interpretation

Postby Mount Everest » Wed Apr 22, 2020 10:44 am

I have seen a number of videos of people doing simultaneous interpretation. How do people train themselves to be a good simultaneous interpreter? What are the main skills required?
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Re: Simultaneous interpretation

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Apr 22, 2020 1:34 pm

While I have never studied to become an interpreter, on a few occasions, I have had the pleasure of working with a couple of these highly-skilled people. As I do not ascribe to the notion that anyone can learn to do anything, for me, interpreters are in separate class, they amaze me! Lanuage Interpretation - Wikipedia.

As to your questions, there are more schools and private institutions offering training and support for interpreters than you can shake a stick at (common idiom). Their websites describe the prerequisites (just show up with a pocketful of cash and we’ll do the rest) along with an overview of their study programmes (you don’t have to do anything, we’re responsible your success). Just Google your question …

How to Become an Interpreter – The Community Interpreter

Near the middle of the above web-page, there is a LINK to a PDF entitled “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly: Assessing Online Training for Interpreters” which you might find interesting.

EDITED:
Link to PDF, typos.
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Re: Simultaneous interpretation

Postby rpg » Wed Apr 22, 2020 3:26 pm

As it happens I've done quite a lot of research into this the past few weeks (I find it fascinating), so I'll venture a response.

It's first worth noting that there are several different types of interpretation. You asked about simultaneous interpretation, so I'm assuming you're asking about traditional conference interpreting, the kind you see in the European Parliament or the UN with private booths for interpreters who speak into microphones translating speech in real time while the participants listen on headsets. If you're more interested in, say, court interpretation in the US instead of institutional interpretation in the EU, the following might not be entirely accurate.

The first prerequisite is of course an excellent command of language. Interpreters classify working languages into the categories A, B, and C. An "A" language is a native language for the interpreter, which they are expected to have an excellent command of (better than an average educated native speaker). They will translate all of their other languages into their A. A "B" language is a language not quite as strong as an A language (ie probably not native), but which the interpreter will translate into from some subset of their languages (perhaps only their A language, perhaps other languages as well). Both passive and active abilities for a B language are expected to be near-perfect, perhaps only slightly below a native speaker. A "C" language is a language the interpreter will interpret from into their "A" language (and, depending, possibly into a B language). Here again the passive command is expected to be essentially perfect, but they do not need perfect active skills, since they won't interpret into a C.

On the CEFR scale, this corresponds to C2 level listening for a C language and C2 level in general for a B language. The native language also needs to be exemplary, and apparently it's very common for prospective interpreters to fail because of an insufficient mastery of their A language.

So you first need a sufficient language combination. What counts as "sufficient" depends on where you plan on working and on your specific languages, but you can see the combinations currently interesting for the EU here-- for an English native speaker, an ACC combination is enough to get started in the EU if it includes French or German, though a third language is preferable, while you can see that for a Lithuanian native speaker, it's imperative to have a B of either English, French, or German (since it's nigh impossible to have interpreters for every pair of languages in the EU, less common languages are often translated indirectly: first interpreted into EN/FR/DE, then subsequently interpreted from those languages into the others; this process is called "retour").

The next step is a postgraduate program in conference interpretation. This is where people learn the actual skills specific to interpretation (but not where they learn language skills! Those should already be good enough going in). These programs vary in length and in quality, but the best ones generally last two years and are brutally difficult: they have low admission rates and low graduation rates (the thinking is: if you're not good enough, better to find out sooner rather than later).

Once you graduate from your conference interpreting program, it's time to start looking for work. For the big institutions like the EU and the UN, you can generally work as a freelance interpreter or as a staff interpreter. Freelance interpreters have to pass an accreditation test, where they will be given speeches to interpret in their various language combinations and assessed on those. If they pass the accreditation test, they'll be put into a database and they'll start receiving freelance work for the institution. For becoming a staff (ie permanent) interpreter, you have to go through a competition, held every few years or so, where potentially hundreds of interpreters will all compete for a very small number of posts.

As for the skills required to be a good interpreter (besides linguistic), I'll leave that to the actual interpreters to tell us. You can find many of them on the site interpreting.info, where they have scattered various nuggets about the profession here and there. I surmise that it's important to be well-cultured and well-rounded, to be a good public speaker (that is, after all, the job!), to be analytical and able to grasp complex arguments quickly, to keep cool under pressure and to be able to think on your feet, and to be naturally curious.
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Re: Simultaneous interpretation

Postby Axon » Wed Apr 22, 2020 4:12 pm

I have friends in the translation/interpretation programs at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, one of the best graduate schools in the world for interpretation. As rpg says, it's extremely rigorous and involves a huge amount of practice. As far as I understand, simultaneous interpreting is a specialization in the Translation/Interpretation major.

One interesting thing is that a lot of the students with English as their B language speak English with about as much ease and comfort as you'd expect someone with a bachelor's degree in that language - that is, having native-like ability is definitely not a requirement for the program. If anybody ever feels bad about misunderstanding a waiter in a language they're learning, don't worry. It happens to people that will go on to be UN interpreters!

That said, they are expected to speak their B languages at a high level, and classes consist of learning and discussing technical topics in those languages instead of learning details of usage. You're expected to polish your grammar and usage on your own time with language partners. The library at MIIS isn't huge, but it carries a lot of grammars and usage guides in several languages meant for native speakers in addition to advanced textbooks and translation coursebooks.

One very important skill that people work on a lot is sight translation, where you read a text in a foreign language and speak a translation aloud as close to real time as you can. As this only requires one person to do, it's the exercise you see most students doing on campus by themselves. It develops reading speed in your foreign language, which is extremely important for functioning professionally. General knowledge and curiosity about the world is also vital, because you often just never know what somebody might reference in a speech or discussion.

I know just one person doing a C language, where his A is Mandarin, B is English, and C is Japanese. He's extremely busy almost all the time because he has to take interpretation classes in both English and Japanese, effectively doubling his workload. I believe there are a handful of native English speakers doing C languages as well, but I think they're bilingual in their A and B languages from birth.

Simultaneous interpretation is something you can learn at home in theory, as it really is just speaking at the same time as listening. However, the advantage of an academic program is that you get advice and motivation from professionals, as well as a curriculum of topics that reflects the most likely challenges a newcomer to the field would meet. You also gain a professional network with plenty of opportunities for internships or short-term contract work.
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Re: Simultaneous interpretation

Postby smallwhite » Wed Apr 22, 2020 8:01 pm

Here’s an old thread also titled Simultaneous interpretation:
https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... php?t=2991
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Re: Simultaneous interpretation

Postby tarvos » Fri Apr 24, 2020 4:45 pm

Simultaneous interpreting is ridiculously difficult and I can't even do it with my language levels, except maybe Dutch and English. My Spanish isn't even good enough and I'm quite an all right consecutive interpreter (I'm training). I might start doing simultaneous interpreting in a while, when my Spanish is good enough for that. But for now I'll stick to consecutive.

You need to have a very good memory, be really flexible, hold up well under stress, and have an astounding command of the language. Simultaneous interpreting is probably one of the toughest jobs out there. It isn't really my thing yet, and I'm considered a good student.
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Re: Simultaneous interpretation

Postby tarvos » Sat Apr 25, 2020 2:33 am

Sight translating is hard by the way. But a good exercise. I should do it more often but I am too sick.
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“And when he shall die
Take him and cut him out in little stars
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world
Will be in love with the night
And pay no worship to the garish sun

Preferred pronouns: feminine.

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Re: Simultaneous interpretation

Postby TheDunder » Tue May 12, 2020 5:36 am

I honestly think simultaneous interpretation is one of those skills that can be learned, and while it may seem like an alien gift in the beginning , it comes with a little practice. I've probably done around 50-60 hours of volunteer simultaneous interpreting, and in the beginning it was just hideous - I probably translated around 30%. Over time, your brain just starts to get it, so like anything the key is practice.

Just for fun, why stop your brain there - there are rumors of simultaneous interpreters out there that can do a crossword at the same time as interpreting!
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Re: Simultaneous interpretation

Postby tarvos » Tue May 12, 2020 4:21 pm

It is a skill you can learn. But it's quite rigorous...
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“And when he shall die
Take him and cut him out in little stars
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world
Will be in love with the night
And pay no worship to the garish sun

Preferred pronouns: feminine.


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