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Methods for Practicing Simultaneous Interpretation

3rd June, 2016 I by Zachary Sheaffer

“My father taught me that the only way you can make good at anything is to practice, and then practice some more.” – Pete Rose

Simultaneous interpreting, the act of orally interpreting audio with only few seconds of lag time, is one of the toughest skills to master for any student of interpretation/translation. An interpreter must have the ability to listen, comprehend, and reiterate the previously stated in another language- all in a matter of seconds- while concentrating on the next statement as well. It requires a lot of decision-making, attentiveness, and knowledge. Fortunately, there are an abundance of methods to aid one in championing this skill.

One route accepted by many is to simply take a class. Within a quality class, various drills and exercises will benefit one who is learning how to interpret simultaneously. However, one does not have to necessarily take a class to develop these skills. An easy method is to listen to a famous speech and record yourself as you interpret it. After doing so, find the script for the speech and read it as you listen to your recording so that you can check yourself for accuracy. The same steps can be taken with a recorded movie, television show, or newscast by turning on the subtitles during the reviewing process. Another great way to enhance your interpretation skills is to find a mentor, a professional interpreter who has been doing the job for years. Shadowing them and gaining advice, tips, and recognition of their approach can be incredibly beneficial to you. A specific drill to help one with one’s ability to predict the outcome of the message stems from Fundamentals of Court Interpretation: Theory, Policy, and Practice. The authors suggest taking a written passage and picking out random sentences, covering up the latter half of the sentences, and trying to predict what the covered portions will say based on the previous wording and contextual clues.

What suggestions do you have in practicing simultaneous interpretation? Do you use any of the suggested resources above? How do they work for you?


You may also be interested in the following:

Ebook: A Resource for Working With Interpreters and Interpretation Equipment

Article: How to Become a UN Interpreter

Article: The World’s Ten Most Translated Authors

Article: Simultaneous Interpretation and the Brain


4 responses to “Methods for Practicing Simultaneous Interpretation”

  1. Ben Mahmoud says:

    Nice article to say the least. straight to the point and clear steps to help a field that will never get robotized and/or mechanized. No matter how big of a leap the Artificial Intelligence will take, translators and interpreters will always be sought after and simultaneous interpreting is pretty much La Creme De La Creme of interpreting and translating. That’s why we get paid as much as we do; we have no competitors and we never will.
    Now, the article was great although the latter part is something I deeply disagree with because guessing is what gets most interpreters lost. I personally take the easy way out rather than practicing telepathy, I keep on practicing both former steps. Sometimes or most times, I practice without even speak out the words, sort of playing crazy if that makes any sens; yes, I interpret to myself in my own mind. I watch France24 in English and interpret it to myself in French then switch to France24 in Arabic and interpret it in English or France depending on the mood. My favorite are subtitles because I love catch dependencies between what was said verses what was translated all while I try to do my own silent mental interpretation.
    Yes, practice makes perfect and once perfect you rather keep on practicing to never loose your edge.

    • Hello Ben,

      Thank you so much for your comment! I appreciate the compliment on the blog. I agree that simultaneous interpretation is something that will always require a professional interpreter. I also agree with your comment regarding guessing what the speaker will say. The drill stems from research from the University of Arizona that specifically focuses on court interpretation. I have included the source below where I obtained the drill so that you can look into it further.

      González, Roseann Dueñas., Victoria F. Vásquez, and Holly Mikkelson. Fundamentals of Court Interpretation: Theory, Policy, and Practice. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 1991.

      Let me know what you think!

  2. Gertrude says:

    Nice article

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