Eleven Skills Conference Interpreters Must Possess

June 22, 2016 JAlfonso 2 comments

Try this exercise for just a few minutes. Listen to a TED talk and try repeating everything the speaker says. This requires you to listen and talk at the same time.  It’s called shadowing. Please take a moment and click on the link to begin.

Did you try it? I hope you did, because only then you can see how difficult it is just to shadow in the SAME language. However, conference interpreters who continually practice and enhance their listening skills can master simultaneous interpretation.

Now, imagine that you not only listen and speak at the same time, but also you must instantly and accurately transmit the entire message into another language. What skills and knowledge are required in order to become a skilled simultaneous interpreter?

  1. Expertise and thorough fluency in all working languages, including slang and dialect. 

  2. Complete familiarity with the culture, customs, traditions, and history of the people into whose language the speech is interpreted.

  3. Fully proficient in the use of simultaneous interpreting equipment.

  4. Team player material:  teams win championships, not individual athletes.

  5. A confident yet pleasant speaking voice with effective delivery.

  6. The dexterity required to intently listen to the source speaker, focus cognitive thought processes, and interpret into the target language, all at the same exact time.

  7. Excellent short-term memory retention and a flair for anticipation of speech development.

  8. The aptitude to reformulate the spoken message and interpret same into the target language so that it sounds natural and conveys the original meaning.  

  9. The skill to study and research subject matter and quickly acquire new vocabulary in preparation for specific events. Most professional interpreters have an active vocabulary of around 25,000 words and a passive vocabulary of over 150,000 words.

  10. Mental stamina to monitor one’s own rendition while continuously working in simultaneous mode. 

  11. Flexibility in managing stressful situations and unforeseen technical problems (because they always arise).

In order to reach minimum standards of simultaneous interpreting practice, at least 10,000 hours of exercises are needed to master this mode of interpretation.  Therefore, practicing conference interpreters command a premium fee.  Just like lawyers, doctors, and accountants, they have invested effort, time, education and money to train themselves to provide the flawless rendition your event deserves.

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