Simultaneous translation arose relatively recently, at the beginning of the last century, but gained popularity only after the end of the Second World War. Consecutive interpreting, which was previously used at international meetings, no longer meets the latest requirements of our time, because it excessively increased the time of their holding. Due to the fact that after each spoken phrase the speaker had to stop and wait for his speech to be translated into several languages, the degree of perception of his speech was noticeably reduced.
When using simultaneous translation, these two problems were solved. However, new ones arose: it was necessary to install sophisticated equipment for an interpreter and find specialists with an impeccable knowledge of not only languages, but also the topics of a meeting or conference, capable of working for a long time in difficult conditions.
How does the process of simultaneous translation work?
In the hall where simultaneous translation is used, a simultaneous interpreter booth is installed. Headphones and amplifiers are connected to it (for each language of translation – different). Listeners put on headphones and have the opportunity to hear not only the translation, but also the original performance.
Simultaneous translation is considered one of the most difficult types of translation. In the simplest case, the interpreter is allowed to read the text of the speech in advance (usually just a few minutes before the start of work). But even in this case, the simultaneous interpreter does not just work “from a sheet”: digressions, remarks, answers to questions from the audience and other things that need to be translated at the same second without preparation are inevitable in the speaker’s speech.
However, a more common option is when the interpreter does not have the text of the speech in front of his eyes, and he has to translate by ear and as quickly as possible. Such work is the strain of all mental forces, so the interpreters change every half an hour.
What should be a simultaneous interpreter
In addition to excellent command of languages (native and foreign), the interpreter must understand the topic that the speech is devoted to (a simultaneous interpreter working with medical topics, for example, should not take on the translation of speeches on the topic of agriculture). Also, in such work it is necessary to be sustained and stress-resistant. Even from the most incomprehensible, indistinct, confused speech, to snatch the meaning and adequately convey it in another language – this is the art of a professional simultaneous interpreter.
High requirements for a simultaneous interpreter make this profession respected and well paid. And this is justified, because the outcome of international meetings of the highest level largely depends on the qualifications of an interpreter.
How to choose a good simultaneous interpreter
Simultaneous interpreter is one of the most difficult professions, which requires maximum concentration of strength and nerves of steel from a specialist. Synchronists work at events of the highest level – at international conferences, summits, consultations, councils, and so on. At their core, they are the second voice of the speaker, and it is extremely important that the specialist be able to convey his speech to the smallest particles. The simultaneous interpreter is always hidden behind a soundproof booth, so the voice of the interpreter is associated with the voice of the speaker himself.
Of course, finding a good simultaneous interpreter is extremely difficult, because not every interpreter is able to demonstrate the level of knowledge that is required of him. Here it is important not to make a mistake with the choice, because a bad interpreter can lead to a disruption of the event, or, moreover, it can provoke a conflict between the meeting participants. Therefore, it is important to treat the selection of such specialists with all responsibility.
Firstly, the translator must have an excellent command of both foreign and native languages; competently operate with terms and speech turns; have a broad outlook and have a good understanding of a wide variety of areas of life. However, if this set of characteristics is more than sufficient for consecutive interpreting, then more stringent requirements are imposed on the simultaneous interpreter.
The second way is more reliable – it is to use the services of translation companies. Not every translation agency provides synchronized translation services. This is the lot of reliable companies that can afford to work with real professionals. It is here that you can find a good specialist who will fully meet all the above requirements and cope with his work “perfectly well”.
Types of simultaneous translation
Simultaneous translation is one of the most difficult types of interpretation. In the process, his interpreter translates in parallel with the speech of the speaker. Compared to sequential interpreting, where the speaker pauses to translate. In specialized simultaneous interpreting, the interpreter listens to the speech, thinks carefully about the translation, and reproduces the text almost simultaneously.
Simultaneous interpretation can be carried out only if specialized equipment is used for this purpose. It is a collapsible or stationary booth, where there is a special installation for simultaneous translation. It also includes a microphone and 2 pairs of headphones for interpreters, as well as a set of portable receivers, headphones according to the number of participants requiring interpretation.
The interpreter works in headphones in a special soundproof booth so that his voice does not drown out the speaker. With the use of special equipment, the translation that is fed to the listeners into the headphones is enhanced. In most cases, this type of translation is used when large-scale events are held, with a large number of participants during seminars, congresses, conferences, presentations, teleconferences, economic briefings and press conferences, and require serious technical and human resources.
Places where simultaneous translation is used
Most international organizations, including the International Military Tribunal, the International Monetary Fund and the UN, use simultaneous translation in their daily activities, while it becomes an integral part of their activities.
There are several types of simultaneous translation. The main ones are:
- translation “from sight”, without preparation or with it, when the translator has the opportunity to receive the speech of the report in writing in advance and translate in absolute accordance with the available materials, making minor adjustments if necessary;
- simultaneous translation “by ear”. In the process, his simultaneous interpreter perceives the speech coming in a continuous stream through the headphones, and translates in blocks as he receives information;
- simultaneous reading from a pre-translated text, when the translator reads the text that is prepared in advance, following the words of the speaker, and, if necessary, makes changes if the speaker deviates slightly from the original text.
The advantages of simultaneous interpreting in comparison with another type – sequential interpreting lie in the fact that the time spent on the event itself is significantly reduced. At the same time, simultaneous translation makes it possible to keep the attention of the audience clearly and increases the degree of convenience for participants who hear foreign speech in the original and without stopping. This is typical for consecutive interpreting, and, of course, a big plus of simultaneous interpreting is the ability to use several working languages at once, if people from different countries take part in the event.
Simultaneous translation requires an absolute understanding of its subject matter. Therefore, it is extremely important for the translator to familiarize himself with the materials of this event in advance in order to delve into the subject area of the event that was planned in detail. Thanks to careful preparation, the success of simultaneous translation is achieved, which further affects the success of the event itself.
Advantages and disadvantages of simultaneous translation
Often there is a need for oral simultaneous translation . As can be judged from existing practice, in most cases the client himself is not able to fully understand his own requirements. That is why we recommend to consider in more detail all the possible minuses and pluses of simultaneous interpreting in relation to consecutive interpreting.
Advantages of simultaneous translation
Analyzing both, the following advantages of the simultaneous type of translation should be highlighted:
- with the help of simultaneous interpretation, you can listen to the speech of a speaker, without interruptions and stops. This allows you to attract and retain more people, and also provides an opportunity to observe the reaction given out by listeners. A professional speaker will not follow the speech plan established earlier if listeners are not interested in his story;
- Simultaneous interpreting can halve the time of a speech compared to consecutive interpreting. This is especially important if a long conference is required. The attention of listeners should be focused on the subjects that interest them. After two hours, it is better to take a short break, or reduce the duration of the performance;
- Simultaneous translation is considered the most convenient for the participants of the conference, since with its help you can immediately understand what exactly is being said in the speech. It should also be remembered that certain people are able to perceive speech in the original for the first time due to their knowledge of the language. In the process of consecutive translation, frequent stops can even irritate the audience;
- you can make an event in which they will absolutely participate, speaking different languages. For work, we recommend inviting several simultaneous interpreters, providing each of them with a separate booth for working with information;
- an equipped booth for simultaneous interpretation can save time. After all, the speech is broadcast in parallel with the speaker’s speech, thanks to which he will not pause in the monologue.
As can be judged from the existing list, the advantages are immediately visible. Despite this, one must also remember about the presence of some disadvantages that sometimes accompany such a translation:
Disadvantages of simultaneous translation
- with simultaneous translation, its cost is higher when compared with other types of translations. This phenomenon can be explained by the fact that a high qualification is required from a specialist. Therefore, he and other participants in the translation must be provided with specialized equipment for high-quality work;
- it is necessary to provide the translator with equipment, premises, a special booth;
- participation of at least two or three specialists is required. One simultaneous interpreter should work no more than twenty minutes. After that, it is necessary to provide him with a replacement due to increased mental stress.
The true professionalism of each simultaneous interpreter lies in the fact that regardless of the degree of preparation, as well as the upcoming conditions of the work process, he is able to interpret at the highest possible level. This is the specialist who for many years has been training his abilities – to simultaneously perceive speech, translate it, reproduce it in another language. If the translator is indeed qualified, then it is his responsibility to be able to determine the meaning of words out of context. The specialist is even able to predict what exactly the subsequent spoken text will be. The work of a simultaneous interpreter is a very hard job.
Features of simultaneous translation
Simultaneous translation services are activities whose main purpose is to convey the content and essence of the translation of a text from one language to another. Since the text requiring translation can be not only written, but also oral, translation may also be required for oral speech. At first glance, it may seem that translation and interpreting are very similar to each other. It would seem that one should only know the language, and already how – in writing or orally to express the meaning in it – is no longer important. But in fact, this is far from the case, here all factors are extremely important.
What is the essence of oral translation?
The process of simultaneous translation is very different from written translation. In English, these concepts even have different names: for example, a translator is called “translator”, and an interpreter is called “interpreter”. Interpretation of the text during simultaneous translation will not be fixed, as a result of which there is no way to return to it, correct, supplement or clarify something. Simultaneous translation is carried out simultaneously with the perception of the original text, which completely excludes the possibility of using reference books, dictionaries, and even the possibility of thinking about the final wording of the sentence. As a result, simultaneous interpreting is filled with many phrase compressions, substitutions, and concept uses, which can result in a reduction in the level of translation.
Another distinguishing feature is the non-contact nature of each of the translated text segments. The translator has no way to know in advance what will be discussed further in the speech he translates. Each of the said phrases must be interpreted separately.
Such unique simultaneous interpreters
The Nuremberg trials, which took place in 1945-1946, are considered the official beginning of the countdown of the history of simultaneous translation. It was then that the method of oral translation was first applied, carried out almost simultaneously (synchronously) with the speech of the speaker. Since then, simultaneous interpreting has firmly established its position as an optimal alternative to consecutive interpreting at major international events with a large number of participants.
A distinctive feature of simultaneous interpreting is the use of special equipment, which usually includes a soundproof interpreting booth, as well as headphones for meeting participants and microphones for interpreters and speakers. However, the technology itself is only an auxiliary component. The most important link in the translation process is a simultaneous interpreter .
In the circle of professional interpreters, even the most experienced consecutive interpreters take their hats off to simultaneous interpreters. Synchronization is the “aerobatics” of translation work. Simultaneous translation requires unique skills and abilities, sometimes bordering on the superhuman. According to statistics, only 25% of interpreters are able to become simultaneous interpreters.
The processes in the brain of simultaneous interpreters have been the object of close attention of scientists for many years. It is known that the synchronizer’s brain processes more than sixty operations, the main of which are related to working memory and speed of reaction. By analogy with computer processes, where many tasks are simultaneously performed to process hundreds of impulses and discharges, the translator activates all brain areas responsible for the level of attention, memorization, receipt and reproduction of sound signals.
It is not surprising that overwork of the brain in such a mode of activity occurs after 20-30 minutes of work, after which, with the correct organization of simultaneous translation, his partner should come to replace the simultaneous interpreter. In the mode of work for 30 minutes followed by 30-minute pauses , the interpreter can cope with his task for 4 hours, after which he needs a longer rest. But still, these time frames are very individual and depend on the abilities, experience and endurance level of the synchronizer.
In the course of their work, simultaneous interpreters most often use cursive writing – a personal system of signs and notation that allows you to capture the key points of the speaker’s speech. One of the specific methods of simultaneous translation is to “guess” various phrases and phrases. So, if the speaker says the phrase “protection of rights”, we can safely assume that the word “person” or “children” will follow (depending on the context).
But regardless of the experience and level of basic training of a simultaneous interpreter, he needs to prepare in advance for the upcoming speech: get acquainted with the materials on the topic, ideally with the texts of the speeches. This allows the translator to refresh the necessary vocabulary and quickly navigate the translation process.
Simultaneous translation: can it be learned?
Translation work implies that the translator has a certain set of personal qualities, knowledge, skills and abilities. At the same time, any specialist in the field of translation will agree that a simultaneous interpreter should have the most unique qualities . What is the difference between a simultaneous interpreter and his “colleagues” and is it possible to learn the skills without which simultaneous interpreting is impossible?
The main difficulty of this type of translation work lies in the need to simultaneously use several translation skills and abilities. Simultaneously, the synchronist performs listening of the translated text (that is, he listens and understands the oral material) and reproduces the text of the translation. It should also be taken into account that this process takes place at the pace set by the speaker. The pace can be determined both by the nature of the situation and by the personality of the speaker. Often the translator has no control over this pace, however, he needs to deliver his interpretation within a strict time frame. In practice, this is extremely difficult.
Professional simultaneous translation training programs
Professional simultaneous translation training programs exist in many universities around the world, in particular, at the University of Ottawa in Canada, at the Maurice Thorez Linguistic University (Moscow), at the Higher School of Translators in Geneva, Switzerland, as well as in other specialized universities. As a rule, two years are allocated for training in simultaneous translation in an educational course. It is almost impossible to master this discipline in a shorter period of time. In addition, after training, students consolidate their knowledge in long practical classes and only then can they move on to the implementation of simultaneous translation at the initial level.
UK educational institutions teaching simultaneous translation of speech are guided mainly by the methodology of A.F. Shiryaev, published for the first time in 1979.
Modern linguistics identifies four key conditions, without which effective teaching of simultaneous translation is impossible:
- Mandatory improvement in practice of translation and speech skills after mastering the techniques of oral translation from a sheet, as well as consecutive translation.
- Continuous practice of simultaneous perception of the original text, formulation of the translation text and its reproduction;
- Mastering the skill of lagging behind the speaker’s speech when formulating and reproducing the text of the translation;
- Work on exercises to correct the most common simultaneous translation errors (mainly in political, legal and economic texts).
Linguists, psychologists and psycholinguists consider the nature of simultaneous translation from different points of view. “Pure” linguistics analyzes only the linguistic component of this type of translation, leaving non-linguistic factors practically unattended. Translation is considered here as a bilingual act of communication with a special system of linguistic connections.
Psychologists who study simultaneous translation focus their attention on the “human component”, analyzing the psychology of the translator’s choice of various forms of expression in non-standard situations. Supporters of the psychological approach study the interaction of a person’s thinking in the original language and his thinking in the target language.
Psycholinguistics defines simultaneous translation as a set of human speech and speech-thinking activities, which has its own motive and is aimed at a specific goal – the creation of a translation text. As already mentioned, simultaneous interpretation simultaneously involves two types of speech activity – listening and speaking.
The simultaneous interpreter hears the text of the speaker only once and does not have the opportunity to ask again or clarify an incomprehensible fragment of speech. He also cannot correct a mistake in translation simply because there are no pauses in the speaker’s speech. Such conditions of translation testify to its complexity and eccentricity. Simultaneous translation is a job for those who are ready to comprehend the most complex science and are not afraid of difficulties on the way to professional success.
Simultaneous translation training in Germany
English applicants who dream of mastering a foreign language perfectly and even linking their profession with it can easily realize their dream in one of the dozens of English language universities. However, some set themselves the most ambitious task – to become not just a qualified translator, but a top-class translator. Everyone unanimously refers simultaneous interpreters to this category of specialists. Leading British universities have relevant educational programs, however, sometimes full immersion in the language environment is preferred – then the choice stops at a foreign institute. Therefore, for those who dream of becoming a professional German simultaneous interpreter, it makes sense to consider getting an education in Germany.
To date, there are three German universities where you can learn simultaneous translation: these are the universities of Heidelberg, Saarbrücken and Germersheim. The department of interpretation and translation in Heidelberg won the greatest fame. Graduates of this faculty work at meetings of leaders of states and governments, as well as at international class conferences. High-level translators are highly respected in Europe, which is reflected not only in attitude, but also in the level of remuneration. The annual income of a highly qualified simultaneous interpreter can be 120-200 thousand euros. However, before reaching professional heights in simultaneous translation, one will have to overcome a difficult path.
Not everyone can enter the faculty of simultaneous translation in Germany. Preference is given to applicants with an existing first higher education: a lawyer, economist, doctor, mathematician or engineer. Of course, you can not do without an excellent knowledge of the German language. There are no special privileges for foreigners here.
During the first two years of study, future interpreters and translators study in the same program. At the end of the second year of study, a midterm exam is taken and a division into specializations takes place. The selection for a simultaneous translation course lasts six months – all this time, teachers evaluate the student’s prospects as a simultaneous interpreter. The ability to memorize, and the speed of reaction, and stress resistance, and erudition, and, of course, the general level of knowledge of three languages are evaluated. After this intermediate stage, a conference of teachers is held, at which a decision is made on the admission or non-enrollment of each of the students to the course of simultaneous translation.
In the course of studying at a specialized faculty in Germany , a special place is given to the technique of simultaneous translation . Maintaining the general level of erudition is also important: students regularly read the press in three languages, follow television news, and immerse themselves in the world of politics.
The intensity of training is very high, the loads are sometimes prohibitive, however, specialists who plan to connect their lives with simultaneous translation understand that the work of a simultaneous interpreter will always be associated with stress at the limit of human capabilities throughout his career. On average, a simultaneous interpreter works about 120 days a year , or 10 days a month. The rest of the time he is preparing for the upcoming translations.
Working as a simultaneous interpreter is not easy, however, it is even more difficult to earn a good reputation in order to become a sought-after specialist. Almost all novice simultaneous synchronizers face this problem. Already at the beginning of a career, it is necessary to build up a permanent clientele, acquire useful contacts, and personal initiative and a willingness to invest time and effort in one’s own promotion in the market are important here. At the same time, statistics show that foreign graduates of German translation faculties have no worse prospects than Germans.
Going to study simultaneous translation in Germany, you will have to accept the fact that no matter what your previous successes in England were, at a German university you will have to start everything from scratch. It will take a long time before the efforts expended begin to bear fruit. However, patience, perseverance and endurance are the qualities without which a simultaneous interpreter cannot succeed, so the ability to overcome the difficulties that arise at a foreign university can also become a kind of test for professional suitability. Time will pass, and all the efforts made will certainly be rewarded with a successful career as a professional interpreter.
Cost of simultaneous translation
Simultaneous translation service is becoming more and more popular. However, the cost for it is many times higher than for any other types of translation activities. Why? Is such a price justified ?
Of course, it is affected by the cost of renting equipment. This includes a translation booth, headphones, amplifiers, and more. And yet the price of the equipment is small compared to the cost of the work of a simultaneous interpreter. Why does he pay so much for his work? To answer this question, it is necessary to clearly understand the essence of simultaneous translation, which has its own varieties.
- The speaker delivers a speech, and the interpreter translates by ear, only a few seconds behind. This type of translation is considered the most difficult.
- The interpreter has the opportunity to read the text of the speech in advance and prepare the translation. During the speaker’s speech, he reads the prepared text from the sheet. However, even in this case, deviations from the planned speech are possible (for example, answers to questions from the audience), and the interpreter needs to convey all this in time and accurately.
- An intermediate type of simultaneous translation, in which a few minutes before the start of the event, the simultaneous interpreter is given the text of the speech, and he translates from the sheet.
Obviously, this type of translation is very difficult. And it is not so easy to find an excellent specialist in this field.
So, what qualities should a good simultaneous interpreter have?
- It is excellent to know languages, and not only foreign, but also native.
- Understand any topic and work only with it. Knowing the terms and special words that are used in the chosen topic is extremely important, because with simultaneous translation there is no time to search for a word in the reference book or consult a specialist.
- To be emotionally stable and persistent, ready for emergency situations, be able to resolve conflicts that inevitably arise during work.
- Be able to predict the speech of the speaker in order to have time to translate it.
- Have excellent hearing. Unfortunately, often translation equipment does not work very well, so you have to rely on what you can hear without it.
- Understand dialects and understand people even with a speech impediment.
As can be seen from the above, simultaneous translation requires the exertion of all the forces of the performer, and therefore simultaneous interpreters do not work for more than half an hour in a row, they replace each other. And this also affects the cost of this type of translation.