Interpreting is the process of transmitting a spoken text – e.g. a speech – from one language into another. But interpreting is not always the same thing. There are many methods of interpretation, and we’d like to introduce you to two of them in this article.
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In the case of consecutive interpreting, a speech is rendered in the target language after a delay, after the speaker has finished. This means that the interpreter listens attentively to the speaker for several minutes at a time, taking notes, before rendering the text in the target language. He does this using a special note-taking method, since he has only very little time at his disposal. The difficulty is that he must concentrate fully on what the speaker is saying and jot down his notes at the same time. An interpreter is also expected to render the spoken text in the correct chronological context, to help the audience better follow the speech. And then there’s the matter of the interpreter’s representation capability, since in most cases he’s standing on stage right next to the speaker.
In contrast to the consecutive method, simultaneous interpretation describes the direct oral rendering of delivered speech into the foreign language. Here, the interpreter has no time to ponder on what he hears; he speaks in parallel with the speaker. To prevent any confusion at major conferences at which several languages must be interpreted at once, the interpreters sit in separate booths. These are equipped with a microphone and a headset, so that the audience can listen to the delivery of the speech in a variety of languages via headphones. As a rule, a simultaneous interpreter can work for about 30 minutes at a time, after which a colleague takes his place, who in turn must be relieved a further 30 minutes later. The interpreter’s working day lasts at the most six hours (including breaks). If you’d like to make use of an interpreter’s services at your conference, then you must include this period in your calculations to ensure that a sufficient number of interpreters are available for each of the language combinations involved.
It’s entirely natural that you’ll be surprised by the cost estimate for an interpretation assignment at first. So much money for just three hours’ work? That may be your first impression. If you stop for thought, however, you’ll realize that the interpreter’s job doesn’t start only when he sits down in his booth. Beforehand he must familiarize himself with the topic in question, since in many cases it’s going to involve specialized technical vocabulary that doesn’t necessarily belong to his everyday wordhoard. That means: lots of learning and swotting! Depending on the duration and difficulty of the interpretation assignment, this will take several hours – or even days – of intensive preparation. Once the vocabulary has been firmly learned, he then travels to the client (travel expenses must be paid by the client). And that’s when the work starts for real – interpreting. This involves highly complex processes going on in the brain. What is said by the speaker must be received and understood, filtered, and ultimately rendered in the target language – all within a very short time. On top of this, there are the specific features peculiar to the language pair to be considered. In German, for example, the verb generally comes at the end of a sentence, while in English it’s needed right at the beginning. Such special requirements can be met only by the interpreter’s improvization talent and by taking regular breaks. And once the interpretation task itself is over, the post-processing stage starts.
In view of the gigantic effort involved in such a task, the cost estimate is entirely justifiable, especially when you bear in mind that the quote is based on a daily rate and that no extra costs are charged for the preparation and post-processing work.
We’d be delighted to organize a professional interpreter for you in your dealings with authorities and agencies, for conferences, and much more besides.
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