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08. July 2004

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How should I talk when I am using an inerpreter?
You should speak directly to the person you wish to speak to as if the interpreter is not present. Whether interpreting simultaneously or consecutively, properly trained interpreters will use the same grammatical person that the speaker uses in the source language. In other words, if the speaker says "my name is John" the interpreter will say "my name is John" in the target language, rather than "he says his name is John" or "his name is John." The main reason for this practice is practical: if you do otherwise, the pronoun references quickly become hopelessly confusing. Example: If you interpret "then he hit me" as "he says then he hit him" there is no way of telling who hit whom. (And an interpreter who introduces more confusion and ambiguity than there was in the original message is not doing a good job.) By the same token, when you speak to someone through an interpreter, you should speak directly to her or him as though that person were speaking the same language as you, rather than speaking to the interpreter. If, for example, you were to look at the interpreter and say "what's his date of birth?", your interpreter would be justified in answering, "how should I know?"

Why do I need more than one simultaneous interpreter for my event?
Of the three different categories of interpreting (the other two are consecutive and facilitating), simultaneous (conference) interpreting is by far the most demanding. A minimum of 2 interpreters are required for continuous service of more than a couple of hours. This comes as a shock to most people. Why do we need 2 people? Surely you are just trying to sell us extra staff? The truth is, simultaneous interpreting demands so much concentration that any individual can only hope to be effective for periods of 20 minutes or so. After that time they will need to hand off to a fellow interpreter and rest. Whilst resting they will continue to follow the proceedings and prepare for their next slot. For an event lasting more than a couple of hours, 2 interpreters are required to allow adequate rest periods (many interpreters will refuse assignments unless they have a deputy). Ideally they have worked together before.

What equipment do I need?
Specialist equipment is usually required. Simultaneous Interpreters require a sound proof booth within view of the speaker. A clear audio feed from the speaker to the interpreters' headphones is required. Each interpreter must be equipped with a microphone to relay the interpreted audio to the audience via headphones. We strongly recommend you hire professionals such as ourselves to set up your venue with such equipment. Attempting to cut costs by doing it yourself and getting it wrong can lead to disaster - unintelligible audio, a dissatisfied audience and embarrassed interpreters.

What about any printed materials?
Background information. Having adequate and timely background information ahead of a simultaneous interpreting assignment is vital. As the interpreting is being done real-time, there is no scope for going back and correcting mistakes. If at all possible please.... Provide drafts of speeches which important individuals will be making and explain what specialist vocabulary will be used. Schedule some time with the interpreter ahead of the event to brief them on any company political issues they should be aware of (perhaps the chairman insists of being called by his nick name?) Provide a breakdown of how the day will be structured so that the interpreters can begin to plan their work (maybe one of them has specialist knowledge which would be best used during a particular part of a presentation?) Whilst we may have made it sound scary, organising a successful event is really a matter of forward planning. We will be happy to advise and help make your event a real success.

What are the qualifications of a good interpreter?
Knowledge of the general subject of the speeches that are to be interpreted. General erudition and intimate familiarity with both cultures. Extensive vocabulary in both languages. Ability to express thoughts clearly and concisely in both languages. Excellent note-taking technique for consecutive interpreting. At least 2-3 years of booth experience for simultaneous interpreting.


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We frequently use the Internet for our work and so we would also like to ask you to use this method of contacting us, whenever possible, if you are interested in more information. Writing us an e-mail or sending us our request form calculation rather than making a phonecall can save you time and money.
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