How to build your perfect interpreting skills?


TermCoord's ClassicInterpretation is of great importance nowadays. The profession of  the interpreter appeared to satisfy the need of communication between different nationalities. Interpretation is an instrument of communication and information delivery at conferences and meetings of any kind: political, industrial or scientific. It is a tool used at any level of co-operation between schools, partner-towns or countries. There are many fields where interpretation is necessary. Thus both simultaneous and consecutive interpretation are vital components of communication internationally.

Simultaneous versus consecutive interpretation in a nutshell

Translation and interpretation are terms which are often misunderstood by many people. Simply put, translation is written whereas interpretation is an oral transfer from source language to target language. What about the difference between consecutive and simultaneous interpretation? Consecutive interpreting involves listening to chunks of speech and rendering them chunk by chunk into the target language in order to transfer the message as faithfully and accurately as possible; simultaneous interpretation refers to the immediate transfer of the message at the time of speaking, with a focus on passing on the main ideas. So, it is important to see the difference between simultaneous and consecutive interpreting and to choose the best option for international meetings. If you organise one-to-one conversations, intimate gatherings, HR meetings, or consultations, you should choose consecutive interpreting as the importance is on having a faithful and accurate rendition of the speech. On the other hand, simultaneous interpreting requires the use of headsets, microphones and booths to transmit messages to a large audience, and consists more of a free rendition of speech rather than a literal one. If you would like to become an interpreter, it is not enough to be fluent in two or more languages. Interpreting is a demanding job. First of all, interpreters are often in stressful situations. This is especially true for simultaneous interpretation, as you need to follow the speaker and interpret at the same time, and you won’t get a second chance to hear a part of speech you missed. It is also a tricky job, which requires you to make quick decisions. You simply do not have the time to wonder about which word would be the most suitable one. You need to interpret immediately with a maximum of a half-sentence delay. Note that even if you are not a chairperson, you are the person who plays the first fiddle to the audience who relies on you to comprehend what is being said. The interpreter is almost like a second speaker, but an invisible one. The main prerequisites for becoming an interpreter are: an excellent elocution, communication skills, leadership, and hearing and speech production abilities. It is also good to be a little bit anticipative – especially if technological problems occur and you need to improvise. It is also common practice to ask the speaker to provide some information about their speech in advance, for example about the topic, the main points, and key facts, to be better prepared for interpreting later. As soon as you receive some information, you should start with preparing a glossary as well as searching for additional information related to the field of your interpreting. If you are serious about simultaneous interpretation as your career path, it would also be good to be an all-around educated person, as you will never know what you need to interpret. The more you know from various fields or the more you are specialised in one concrete field, the better and easier your work will be in the future.

Which kind of memory is better for you?

If you intend to be a simultaneous interpreter, you rely mostly on your short-term memory as you interpret, so you only need to concentrate on the speech. However, if you are more interested in consecutive interpretation, you need to have an excellent long-term memory to keep in mind whole chunks of speech which on average take about 3-8 minutes. In that case, it is highly recommended that you boost your memory with memorisation techniques and note-taking strategies. The interpreter should also be a polite, well-mannered and patient person as sometimes a spokesperson may give a chaotic or boring speech, but you are still required to follow it. Additionally, you aren’t allowed to express your personal opinions or make any comments or suggestions about the topic to the audience.

Here you can find some helpful tips:

Written by Aleksandra Święcicka and edited by Janna Mack, Communication Trainees at TermCoord.