Section 7 - Simultaneous Interpreting

Simultaneous interpretation requires communicating the message in the target language almost at the same time as the speaker is delivering the message in the source language. The speaker does not pause for the interpreter.

Simultaneous interpreting is used in the courtroom primarily to help an accused or other parties understand what other participants in the trial (witnesses, lawyers, judge) are saying. Simultaneous interpreting in the courtroom is always from English or French into the language of an accused.

This interpretation is usually whispered to the accused and thus is often called "whispered interpreting." It is also called chuchotage, the French word for whispering.

The main advantage of simultaneous interpreting is its speed, as proceedings may go ahead in English or French with virtually no interruptions. To be proficient in this mode, interpreters need training and practice.

When do you interpret simultaneously in court?

The majority of court interpreting is done in the simultaneous mode. Whenever you are interpreting in court proceedings, you will be interpreting everything that is said in court so the party for whom you are interpreting can follow and understand.

What will be tested?

Both simultaneous interpreting exercises involve interpreting from English into your test language. The first consists of a dialogue (involving 2 or more speakers); the second consists of a monologue (1 speaker speaking at length). Speakers may be a judge, counsel or witness, including expert witnesses.

You will begin interpreting as soon as the recording starts to play. There will be no pauses for interpretation.

Each of the simultaneous interpreting exercises will take about 10 minutes.

Practicing simultaneous interpreting

You have been provided with six pre-recorded practice exercises for simultaneous interpreting - three English dialogues and three English monologues - along with written texts of the dialogues/monologues and a list of scoring units for the first dialogue and first monologue. You will interpret all of them into the test language.

For additional simultaneous interpreting practice, you can use English dialogues and monologues, preferably from court related documents and record them (without any pauses) prior to practice.

You will need two recording devices during the practice sessions: one to listen to the pre-recorded exercises and the other to record your performance.

If you do not have access to two recording devices, another person can read the passages aloud and your recording device can record your performance.

To practice simultaneous interpreting, follow the eight stages (each including several steps) identified below.

Stage 1: Preparation for simultaneous interpreting

  • Have a notepad and a pen ready.
  • Start playing the recorded source text. You should listen to the recording using a headset.
  • Start the other recorder. You will record your interpretation using this device.

Stage 2: Initial simultaneous interpreting

  • Listen attentively to the start of the passage.
  • Once you have heard an interpretable segment - a phrase, a clause, or a short sentence - start interpreting simultaneously. You will continue listening to the speaker's next segment while you interpret the previous segment. While you are allowed to take notes, it is difficult to listen, speak and take notes at the same time; so limit your note-taking to important names, dates and numbers.
  • Repeat this step for each segment, until you complete the last segment.
  • Stop the audio file and the voice recorder.

Stage 3: Comparison of initial simultaneous interpreting with recorded source text dialogue/monologue

  • Replay the first segment of the source text dialogue/monologue. You may listen to the sentence as often as necessary to grasp its meaning and take notes at this stage. Stop the audio file before moving on to the following step.
  • Start the voice recorder from the beginning. Listen carefully to your interpretation of sentence 1 and compare it with the source text dialogue/monologue. Note all the things that you have missed. Also note any poor expression in the target language.
  • Repeat these steps for each sentence, until you complete the last sentence.

Stage 4: Comparison of initial simultaneous interpreting with written text of dialogue/monologue

This stage helps if there are parts of the recorded source text that you have not heard well.

  • Start the voice recorder at the beginning of your interpretation.
  • Read the first sentence in the written text and compare your interpretation of that sentence against it. Underline in the written text the words, expressions and segments that appear wrong.
  • Repeat this step for each sentence, until you complete the last sentence.

Stage 5: Analysis and resolution of problems

  • Examine the notes you have taken during Stages 3 and 4 and analyse any words, expressions and segments that you missed or think are wrong. Try to determine why they caused you problems.
    Was it because:
    • you did not understand the word or expression?
    • you did not know the equivalent in the target language?
    • you did not remember something that was said earlier?
  • Think of ways you can correct these mistakes. Do any basic research required.

While some dictionary consultation may be necessary, avoid looking up too many words in dictionaries at this point. In actual situations, you may not have an opportunity to consult a dictionary during simultaneous interpreting; so you should not rely on a dictionary for too much help during practice of simultaneous interpreting. Try to understand source language words and expressions using the context (i.e. the surrounding text). Try to express the concepts using a phrase in the target language if a specific word does not come to mind.

Stage 6: Checking scoring units

  • If you are working on a simultaneous dialogue/monologue with scoring units provided, review the scoring units at this stage. Listen again to your recorded simultaneous interpretation, paying particular attention to the scoring units indicated. Note the units you got correct. Determine how to correct those you got wrong.
  • If you are working on a simultaneous dialogue/monologue which does not have scoring units provided, review the written dialogue/monologue and underline words and phrases that could be considered scoring units. Then listen again to your recorded simultaneous interpretation, paying particular attention to those words and phrases. Note the units you got correct. Determine how to correct those you got wrong.

Stage 7: Final simultaneous interpreting

  • Redo the simultaneous interpreting (following all of the steps of Stage 2), and try to perform a more accurate and smoother interpretation of the dialogue/monologue.

Stage 8: Comparison of final simultaneous interpreting with written text of dialogue

  • Repeat all the steps of Stage 4.
  • Note improvements in comparison with the initial simultaneous interpreting.

At the end of this exercise, you should use a dictionary or term bank to find equivalents for key words that you did not know and you should memorize them for future use.

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