How Did Simultaneous Interpretation Start?

Simultaneous Interpretation is also known as Conference Interpreting: it’s a profession that actually came into being quite recently. In the 20th century we saw the introduction of the profession known as Consecutive Interpretation, with its initial usage taking place at the conclusion of the First World War with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Prior to that time, the language of diplomacy had been French, but after the war the importance of English was rapidly growing. Because of this it became necessary in these meetings for there to be translations between French and English. A team of interpreters was created in the period between World War I and World War II and these interpreters worked in the English-French language pair at the United Nations.

A Different Story

A different perspective held by some authors is that Simultaneous Interpretation was actually used after World War II in the Nuremberg trials. The United Nations heightened its interest following the success of the interpretation services conducted at this hugely important and historical event. Up until that time, consecutive interpretation had been used, but this process consumed too much time. It’s true that there was a reluctance to use this new modality, but over a period of time it slowly became more and more popular, until today where it’s become the most widely used technique.

Explaining Simultaneous Interpretation

Simultaneous Interpretation happens in real time, when a speaker talks at the same time as the interpreter transmits the message in a different language. However, the name suggests that this process occurs simultaneously, but this this is not strictly true. There will always be a slight pause between the speaker’s words and the interpreter’s translation, because the interpreter must analyze, process, then translate the idea. Of course this all takes place in a matter of seconds. According to studies, the human mind can only retain a maximum of 9 or 10 words at any one time; therefore, to ensure that the interpreter doesn’t omit or forget essential information or lose the main concept of the speech, they must speak with a difference of only three or four words. This slight gap ensures that the audience will understand all the information being offered by the interpreter.

Equipment Required for Simultaneous Interpretations

Special equipment is required to complete the Simultaneous Interpretation process, and this includes soundproof booths, earpieces and microphones, among others. The audience hears the target language through a system of headphones and receivers, which, with today’s modern technology, has become completely wireless.

Where Is Simultaneous Interpretation Used?

Generally, Simultaneous Interpretation is used for large meetings, conferences, seminars, conventions, multilingual events, workshops, and any other type of event that attracts a large audience. This explains why soundproof booths, complete with an intricate audio system, must be used.

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