simultaneous interpretation

Unlike consecutive interpreters, who take turns with the speaker, simultaneous interpreters talk at the same time as the speaker. The interpreter translates the speaker’s words in real time with little lag during simultaneous interpretation. This type of interpretation is mainly used in courtrooms and conferences.

Simultaneous translators must rely on their short-term memory and think fast on their feet, multitasking the whole time. It’s a complex skill that requires both talent and extensive training. What makes it delicate is that there’s very little room for error in such a demanding task, especially in high-stakes situations like political negotiations. From choosing expert simultaneous translators to speaking clearly, here’s how you can avoid mistakes,

Look at Skill and Credentials

One common mistake is asking someone bilingual to act as an interpreter. This can lead to embarrassing and even disastrous situations! Interpreters aren’t just bilingual, after all. They’re language experts equipped with formal training, whether through a degree or a certification program, and several years of experience.

Before deciding on a simultaneous interpreter, conduct an interview to assess your candidate’s expertise in the language to be interpreted and the subject matter. For example, an interpreter may be highly skilled in French, but they’ll have difficulty unpacking engineering jargon if it’s not their specialization.

Work with Several Interpreters

Simultaneous interpretation is demanding and even draining. Even the most seasoned interpreter can only do it continuously for around 20-30 minutes instead of consecutive interpretation, where interpreters can focus for as much as 2 hours. Given the high-pressure environment, mental fatigue quickly sets in, and a worn-out interpreter may start omitting meaningful sentences or even misunderstanding words.

It’s best to have at least two interpreters around, depending on the scope and duration of the project—in fact, some organizations hire an entire team. However, if you only have one interpreter, the best option is to schedule regular breaks. This way, interpreters can take turns resting without disrupting the discussion flow.

Give a Detailed Briefing

Whatever the skill level of a simultaneous interpreter, they will need some background information about the event. Always schedule a briefing sometime before when you explain the details, including the general topic and copies of presentation slides or supporting documents in advance. For technical, information-heavy discussions, you can distribute a glossary of terms.

Apart from the content, you should bring up sensitive points, such as cultural differences or tricky issues, so they can adjust their tone when interpreting. On the day itself, be prepared by bringing extra copies of the materials in case the interpreters forget to get them or they’re replaced by somebody else because of an emergency.

Allow for Preparation Time

Aside from doing a detailed briefing, giving simultaneous interpreters plenty of time to prepare is also essential. Do your best to hire interpreters early and provide them with information at least a few weeks before.

During this time, interpreters will study your materials and the topic as much as possible, looking at culture, linguistic nuances, and recent news. Although they already know the language, interpreters may have to learn hundreds of new words with each project! Continuous learning is part of any interpreter’s job, and the better prepared your interpreter is, the better the results. After all, language evolves, especially regarding slang and colloquial phrases.

Speak Clearly

Interpreters should be able to hear the speakers very well. Interpreters should be able to listen to the speakers very well. Interpreters should be able to hear the speakers very well. Speakers should go through their own briefing when informed about the interpretation process. Because the interpretation is based on what the speaker is saying, speakers should talk more slowly and enunciate words clearly rather than mumbling.

SSpeakers don’t have to speak unusually slowly, but it would be helpful for them to pause every now and then so the interpreter can catch up. Peaking speed is also essential because interpreters need as much time as possible to digest what’s being said. If the speaker is too fast, interpreters may get stressed and overwhelmed.

Avoid Word Play

Humour is a great way to connect to an audience, but it’s harder to execute when interpretation is involved. As tempting as it may be, speakers should minimize puns and metaphors. Wordplay rarely survives when translated, and a joke may fall flat, be nonsensical, or even be considered offensive. If you’re going to tell a joke, rehearse it beforehand with your interpreter.

Language should also be kept simple. Acronyms, slang, and insider jargon might need to be improved. If your interpreter doesn’t understand these, the audience won’t. Instead of using acronyms, it’s better to explain concisely and use proper, complete words.

Simultaneous interpretation is definitely more challenging than consecutive interpretation. Making mistakes may be more accessible throughout the process, but preparation is vital. You can ensure clear communication and successful results by following the steps above.