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(Duration: 15-20 minutes)
Simultaneous interpretation is one of the most challenging exercises. We developed this little test to give you a taste of what it entails.
Students train at least for a couple of years to be able to start working professionally. There are many complicated skills and tasks.
To name just a few:
- excellent command of all your working languages. Interpretation schools do not teach you foreign languages: your command of them should already be near native or at least flawless comprehension.
- background knowledge – you need to know various kinds of terminology in all your working languages: political, scientific and technical, economic, etc. Learning specialized terminology is an integral part of interpreter education.
- cognitive tasks – you need to be able to analyze the text you are interpreting and internalize a set of rules how to handle difficulties. Contrary to popular opinion, interpreters do not translate every word but extract meaning though they follow the original as closely as reasonably possible.
- presentation skills – working on your voice, manners, professional delivery
- stress management – high blood pressure is our occupational hazard, because interpretation is so stressful. Learning how to handle stress is another important part of interpreter education!
We have not scared you off yet? Then, try these English only exercises to see if you can be a simultaneous interpreter! Click the START button.
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Question 1 of 3
Practice Shadowing (approx. 5 minutes)
What you will need: a headset to be able to listen to online audio.
Shadowing is the first natural step on the road to master simultaneous interpretation. Students repeat the original text in the same language word for word without any paraphrasing.
You cannot lag too much behind the speaker: while this lag (called decalage or ear voice span) is required in simultaneous interpretation, if it is over just a few seconds, it will overflow your memory and you will not be able to continue without interruptions.
Here is your text, it is a 5 minute segment. Repeat what you hear word for word. You should not, however, try to mimic the speaker i.e. repeat his intonation and pauses. Concentrate on words, the interpreter must sound neutral overall.
U.S.-Russia Business Summit
June 24, 2010
President Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia speak about developing innovation and modernization as well as building stronger economic ties at the U.S-Russia Business Summit in Washington, DC.
How do you assess your performance? See below.
Assess your performance:
It was easy for me to follow the speaker
* less true more true
The speech was too fast
* no yes
I missed too many words
* less true more true
I found it difficult to concentrate closer to the end of the passage
* less true more true
Usually simultaneous interpreters work in 30 minute shifts. Imagine doing this exercise in a different language than the original for 30 minutes. Add complicated technical terminology, a challenging topic, a speaker whose native language is not English, and a bunch of PowerPoint slides! This is just a glimpse of the cognitive challenges interpreters experience!
Move on to the next exercise:
Question 2 of 3
Memory and Meaning
Interpreters also use memory – both long term and short term – and process the text they work with in a certain way. As we said, it is not word for word translation. You need to be able to work with meaning and take context into consideration too.
Let’s now see how well you remembered the text you just repeated.
This audio recording takes the most important words from the text. See if you can recreate the text from memory.
As simultaneous interpreters are listening to the original text, they immediately switch from text to meaning and use these milestone words to reproduce the text in a different language.
Listen to the recording of the most important words from the text and as you are doing it, recreate the text out loud as you remembered it. You will hear pauses between words. It is your job to fill these pauses so you produce complete and finished sentences.
If you have a recorder, record your speech.
Later you will have a chance to compare what you said and the transcript of the speech.
How well did you do?
Assess your performance:
* not so well almost as it was
The next page will show you the transcript of the text so you can compare.
Question 3 of 3
Now you have a chance to listen to the original text in one ear and the most important words in the other ear and to read what was actually said:
“Many of you joined us at the business summit during my visit to Moscow one year ago, and it is good to see you again. I noted then that you’re part of a long tradition of commerce and trade between our peoples. Long before Russia and the United States even exchanged ambassadors, we exchanged goods.
In fact, before coming to Washington, President Medvedev visited California and Silicon Valley to explore new partnerships in science and technology and in venture capital. And while there, he pledged Russia’s support to preserve the historic Fort Ross in Sonoma County — an enduring reminder of the early Russian settlements and trade that brought Russian goods to our young nation.
Some have even wondered whether our Declaration of Independence may have been signed with goose quills from Russia. More than 200 years later, it’s a sign of the times that during his visit to Silicon Valley, President Medvedev opened his own Twitter account. I have one as well. And I said during our press conference today that we may be able to finally get rid of those old “red phones.” (Laughter.)
As we all know, despite the surge in trade in recent years, the economic relationship between the United States and Russia is still largely one of untapped potential. And I pointed out last year that our trade with Russia is only about the same as our trade with Thailand — a country with less than half the population of Russia. So obviously there’s more work to do.
That’s why part of the reset of the U.S.-Russia relationship required us creating the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Partnership Commission — Presidential Commission — to explore a whole range of new opportunities, including economic partnerships that create jobs and opportunities for both our peoples. And under Secretary Locke and Minister Nabiullina’s leadership, that’s what we have done.
Companies represented here today are moving forward with a series of major trade and investment deals that will create jobs for both Americans and Russians across many sectors, from aerospace, to automotive engineering, to the financial sector and high-technology.
I am especially pleased that Boeing and Russian Technologies are moving forward with a $4 billion deal on 50 Boeing 737s. This is a win for Russia, creating a long-term market for its raw materials and resulting in modern airplanes for Russia’s travelers.
It’s obviously a win for the United States, because this partnership could add up to 44,000 new jobs in the American aerospace industry. This reflects my administration’s National Export Initiative, and it’s a perfect example of the shared prosperity —- and the high-tech jobs that we can create together.
So today, President Medvedev and I agreed to expand trade and commerce even further. We agreed to deepen our collaboration on energy efficiency and clean energy technologies. We reached an agreement that will allow the United States to begin exporting our poultry products to Russia once again. Chicken is important. (Laughter.)
I want to again thank President Medvedev and his team for resolving this issue, which is an important signal about Russia’s seriousness about achieving membership in the World Trade Organization. And that’s why I told President Medvedev that our teams should accelerate their efforts to work together to complete this process in the very near future.
I believe that Russia belongs in the WTO. That’s good for Russia. It’s good for America. And it is good for the world economy.
I pledged to President Medvedev that the United States wants to be Russia’s partner as he pursues his vision of modernization and innovation in Russia, including his initiative to create a Russian Silicon Valley outside of Moscow. American companies and universities were among the first to invest in this effort. And I’m pleased that a number of you here today are going to be working with it as well.
Now, there’s still a lot more that we can do to encourage trade and investment. And obviously in Russia — and President Medvedev and I discussed this — issues of transparency and accountability and rule of law remain absolutely critical. This is the foundation on which investments and economic growth depends. And I very much appreciate and applaud President Medvedev’s efforts in this area.
Of course, ultimately, it’s you -— the private sector, our entrepreneurs -— who create jobs and unleash economic growth. It’s the market that’s been the most powerful force in history for creating opportunity and prosperity. It’s not the resources we pump or pull from the ground. It’s the imagination and the creativity of our people…”
How does it compare? Of course, a real exam into a good simultaneous interpretation program would take several hours and would have many types of activities and tasks.
Some think that anyone can be an interpreter, that it is enough to speak two languages. While this exercise was only in English we hope you saw that this assumption is incorrect and that even this first stage may be challenging.
Thank you and share this exercise so that more people can learn about simultaneous interpretation!
How do you assess your performance now?
* could be better good