Conference interpreting can be defined in brief as conveying the meaning of a spoken message from language A (the source language) into language B (the target language). The usefulness of conference interpreting arises from the fact that a speaker can best express the intended meaning in his/her mother tongue whereas the listeners can best understand the speaker in their own native tongues.
What is the difference between written translation and conference interpreting?
A translator studies a text written in one language (the source language) and transmits it in writing into another language (target language). The interpreter listens to the spoken message in one language and transmits it orally, consecutively or simultaneously, into the target language. The translator relies on detailed study of the text, using supplementary materials and dictionaries, in order to translate the written text as accurately and authentically as possible. The interpreter, on the other hand, relies primarily on his/her ability to transmit the meaning of the message to the audience right away. The translator uses a lot of time searching for the adequate word or phrase, while the interpreter has to instantly come up with the satisfactory phrase or a close equivalent, if the „right word“ can not be found, so that the audience does not wait. Some interpreters do both written translation and conference interpreting. Others, however, opt for either written translation or conference interpreting. Generally, experience in translation can be an excellent foundation for anyone aspiring to become a conference interpreter.
What is the difference between consecutive and simultaneous interpreting?
Consecutive interpreting implies listening to the speaker in the source language, taking notes, and consecutively reproducing the speech in the target language. Depending on the length of the speech, this type of interpreting can be done as a whole or in several segments. The interpreter doing consecutive interpreting relies mostly on his/her memory, but good notes taking is crucially important. The simultaneous interpreter, usually sitting in a sound-proof booth, listens to the speaker in the source language through headphones, and in real time reproduces the speech in the target language into the microphone. The audience listen through headsets to the speaker as the speech is translated in the target language. Since the simultaneous interpreter can not lag too much behind the speaker, this method requires a lot of practical experience, a routine, concentration, and presence of mind. Consecutive interpreting had long been the standard method of interpreting, until simultaneous interpreting in the English, German, French and Russian languages was first tested at the Nuremberg trials in 1945. For fear that consecutive interpreting would significantly slow down the trials, a completely new technique of interpreting was introduced using the relevant equipment. Presently, thanks to this development and the state of the art audio equipment, simultaneous interpreting has become the most widely used method of interpreting at events of all types. Yet, there are still situations in which it is considered more appropriate to use consecutive interpreting, such as in meetings with a lesser number of participants, interviews, brief public presentations or statements by officials or public figures, or confidential talks. The advantage of consecutive interpreting is that it requires no special equipment. Interpreters are sometimes asked to provide whispered interpretation (Fr. chuchotage – to whisper), which implies that they sit behind or next to the participant in a meeting and simultaneously, in a low voice, provide interpretations for that person only. Simultaneous interpreters work in teams of two in an interpreters’ booth, taking turns, on average every 30 minutes, or more frequently, depending on the complexity and intensity of interpreting; practice has demonstrated that the maximum average length of time during which it is possible to preserve concentration and accuracy is six hours (including breaks) and therefore the standard working day of a conference interpreter is considered to last for six hours.