On this time’s coffee talk series, we had a chat with our simultaneous interpreter team, as they shared their Behind The Scene stories as simultaneous interpreter.
What is a simultaneous interpreter (SI)? SI is the interpreter that translate what the speakers said to another language within around one or two seconds delay, allowing audience to hear the speaker’s speech in audience’s own language almost at the same time or simultaneously with the speaker. They are the interpreters that you see at the back of the room, sitting inside a box, talking to a microphone, while audience listened to him/her through headset, commonly seen in conferences.
How do they do that? Some are professionally trained, and practically honed through years of experience, with hours of research and studying a particular industry topic.
As you may imagine, the skill required is different from a regular interpreter, where the speaker pauses while interpreter translate it to another language. This means, there is still some room for interpreters to clarify with speaker (like in the case of complicated numbering) or ask the speaker to repeat if interpreter can not hear it properly / mumbling, and so on.
Why? Because when you are interpreting for a panel discussion, you may guess what they are going to discuss about, but in reality, it can turn to a complete different topic altogether — just because that is what’s interesting for the audience.
Case in point, during the coffee with one of our Simultaneous English – Putonghua team.
“The conference topic is about Insurance industry, and all the materials for the conference is about insurance. However, during the panel discussion, the audience was more interested about power plant development and investment in China, and the subsequent discussion was largely about that. If you have no exposure to power plant before, that could be a disaster because you don’t have the knowledge about power plant, nor the specific terms they are using in power plant, moreover to translate it in 2 – 3 seconds time.”
“Definitely not for the faint-hearted ones. Once you lost your focus, you’ll lose the whole sentence and there is no way to return or ask them to repeat. The speakers will continue talking, and the audience will stare because they don’t hear anything on the headset or are losing track of the conversation. I even had seen other interpreter cried before while I had to take over the whole session.”
That also means, whatever the speaker is preparing themselves for during the panel discussion, you can expect the interpreter was studying and preparing as much, or even more, depending how confident they are with the topic.
To be continued next week..
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