Simultaneous translation refers to the immediate transfer of a spoken text into another language. Because transcription is done in real time, the correct term is simultaneous interpretation. Simultaneous interpreters are used at large events in particular, as they can transmit content into many languages without a major time commitment.
Simultaneous translation or simultaneous interpreting
What is the correct name? Translation usually involves the written translation of texts, videos and films into another language. Depending on the length of the text and the requirements, a translation can take hours, days or even weeks. Interpreting, on the other hand, deals with spoken language. In simultaneous interpreting, contributions are translated simultaneously, i.e. at the same time as the spoken word. Above all, it is important that the meaning of what is said is conveyed correctly. Translation is therefore not the same as interpreting, yet the term simultaneous translation is widely used.
The procedure for simultaneous interpreting
At events, simultaneous interpreters usually sit in a soundproof booth and listen to the speakers through headphones. With minimal delay, known in the jargon as décalage, the interpreters transfer what is said into the target language. The listeners also wear headphones for this. If several simultaneous interpreters are called in, contributions can be translated simultaneously into different languages.
Significance: simultaneous and consecutive translations
In interpreting, a distinction is made between simultaneous and consecutive interpreting. A simultaneous interpreter, as described in the previous section, is often used at larger events and conferences where he or she translates a speech into another language simultaneously with what is heard. Consecutive interpreting refers to staggered interpreting, which is more likely to be observed in a conversational setting between two people. The interpreter lets a person speak first and takes notes if necessary before passing on what has been said to the interlocutor in the target language.
Forms of simultaneous interpreting
There are 4 different forms of simultaneous interpreting: in addition to classical conference interpreting, there is also relay interpreting, sign language interpreting and whispered interpreting. In the following we present the individual forms in more detail.
The most common form of simultaneous interpreting is during a conference. In this case, the service provider is in an interpreting booth, which is why it is also called booth interpreting. This form of translation is suitable for a larger number of participants but also requires equipment such as a soundproof booth, microphones and headphones.
If more than two languages are spoken at an event, one interpreting team is responsible for one language at a time, which requires several interpreting booths. In relay interpreting, a little-used language (e.g. Estonian) is translated by a team into another language (e.g. English). This translation serves another team of interpreters as the source text for a further interpretation (e.g. in Spanish).
Sign language interpreting
Sign language interpreters mediate between people who communicate with each other in spoken or sign language. Technical equipment is not necessary for this form of translation. Deaf people have a legal right to an interpreter when going to the authorities, police, court and also in the medical field.
Whispered interpreting, or chuchotage, is considered the oldest form of simultaneous translation. It does not require any technical aids and is aimed at small groups of 1-4 people. Whispered interpretation is very common at court hearings, but is also used at conferences where individual foreign business people are the only ones who do not speak the conference language.
Learn simultaneous interpreting
Interpreters are fluent in several languages and are well versed in different subject areas. Simultaneous interpreting therefore requires not only strong linguistic skills, but also a great deal of professional competence. Most professional interpreters are trained at a university or specialist academy.
FAQ: More questions about simultaneous interpreting
How does simultaneous translation work?
The interpreters sit in a soundproof booth, usually with a direct view of the speakers, listen to their contributions via headphones and interpret in real time, usually with only a few seconds delay. In order for simultaneous interpreting to function smoothly, suitable conference technology is necessary.
What does simultaneous mean?
Simultaneous translation means the transfer of a speech into the target language – in real time.
What is simultaneous interpreting?
Simultaneous interpreting is a form of interpreting in which the interpretation for the listeners takes place almost simultaneously with the speech.
What is the salary of a simultaneous interpreter?
What an interpreter earns depends on the type of employment, the sector and the place of work. Salaried interpreters can usually expect a gross salary of around £2,200 to £2,600 per month. For freelancers, payment depends on the hourly rate set and the clientele.
How much does simultaneous translation cost?
If you hire a simultaneous interpreter, you will have to budget between £65.00 and £105.00 per hour, depending on the assignment.
How does one become a simultaneous interpreter?
The professional title of interpreter is not protected in Germany. Those who wish to work professionally in this occupation usually complete a three-year training course at a specialist academy, which ends with a state examination. In Germany, there are Master’s programmes for prospective simultaneous interpreters.
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