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Which mode really is harder?
Thread poster: Sara Senft

Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:04
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 30, 2009

Recently, I have talked to several other interpreters about venturing in to simultaneous interpreting. They have said that consecutive is actually a lot harder than simultaneous. Personally, I am surprised by this. To me, consecutive seems less difficult.

Maybe I am saying this (at least partly) because I am used to consecutive interpreting. What are your thoughts on this? For those of you who find consecutive more difficult, why?


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:04
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
The booth helps Jan 30, 2009

But there are really any number of reasons.

People with some degree of stage fright might prefer not being seen. You're pretty much left to your own devices in SI, and this makes you feel more autonomous. For one, your absence calls more attention to the message. Then, for technical reasons, a microphone protocol that keeps the audience organized is observed (if you've done press conferences, you'll really appreciate this). When you're facing an audience, not only do you have to contend with concentration and filtering noise - there may be bilingual people in the audience all too ready to interrupt at the drop of a pin. (Not to mention that such bilinguals may prove curiously harder to interpret).

There's also décalage, which keeps delivery in simultaneous easier to organize, whereas it can happen in consecutive that a speaker gets carried away and waxes prolific, leaving you less than 2 minutes for synthesizing everything he said in 15. (It can be done, but it seldom sits well with an audience).

Maybe it's just an impression, but I feel that, for such reasons, more demands are made upon the consecutive interpreter. But that also depends on the kind of audience you work for.


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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:04
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good points Jan 30, 2009

You have some good points, Parrot.

I am taking an optimisitc yet realistic attitude. Yes, simultaneous interpreting is difficult. Yes, it does take a lot of practice. The same attitude applies to so many other skills.

I am also keeping in mind that I might do better at it than I imagined. That has proved true for several other things I can do.

Right now, I am in the 'exploring' stage. I am gathering advice and looking for training options. I have heard of Acebo and I want to purchase it soon.

My biggest concern right now is keeping up with the speaker--which I imagine is a concern of so many beginners.

Parrot wrote:

But there are really any number of reasons.

People with some degree of stage fright might prefer not being seen. You're pretty much left to your own devices in SI, and this makes you feel more autonomous. For one, your absence calls more attention to the message. Then, for technical reasons, a microphone protocol that keeps the audience organized is observed (if you've done press conferences, you'll really appreciate this). When you're facing an audience, not only do you have to contend with concentration and filtering noise - there may be bilingual people in the audience all too ready to interrupt at the drop of a pin. (Not to mention that such bilinguals may prove curiously harder to interpret).

There's also décalage, which keeps delivery in simultaneous easier to organize, whereas it can happen in consecutive that a speaker gets carried away and waxes prolific, leaving you less than 2 minutes for synthesizing everything he said in 15. (It can be done, but it seldom sits well with an audience).

Maybe it's just an impression, but I feel that, for such reasons, more demands are made upon the consecutive interpreter. But that also depends on the kind of audience you work for.


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Paula James  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:04
French to English
+ ...
simultaneous Jan 30, 2009

I do find simultaneous interpreting easier than consecutive, mainly because of not having to remember things, but also what Parrot said about being visible. In the booth I just have to think about interpreting, if doing consecutive in front of people I can't ignore the fact that people are listening, and often understanding both (in simultaneous nobody listens unless they need to, or want to check the quality!).
However, this applies to conference interpreting, other types of interpreting are different - consecutive interpretation of a discussion between two people is possibly easier than simultaneous "whispering" (chuchotage) interpreting in a busy room.
Also, practice is really the key, I also prefer simultaneous simply because I've done it more.


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Peter van der Hoek
Venezuela
Local time: 08:04
Member (2008)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Simultaneous as well Jan 30, 2009

Paula James wrote:

I do find simultaneous interpreting easier than consecutive, mainly because of not having to remember things, but also what Parrot said about being visible. In the booth I just have to think about interpreting, if doing consecutive in front of people I can't ignore the fact that people are listening, and often understanding both (in simultaneous nobody listens unless they need to, or want to check the quality!).
However, this applies to conference interpreting, other types of interpreting are different - consecutive interpretation of a discussion between two people is possibly easier than simultaneous "whispering" (chuchotage) interpreting in a busy room.
Also, practice is really the key, I also prefer simultaneous simply because I've done it more.


I agree with you Paola. My main problem with consecutive interpreting is remembering everything. As all of my interpreting is done in a courtroom, I mainly deal with people who have no or little experience with interpreters and therefore ramble on and on without any consideration. Luckily most judges ask me prior to the start of the trial how I would like to go about the interpretation, so usually I have the last word.
Simultaneous interpreting does take some practice, but I think that once you've got the experience it is a lot easier for most people than consecutive interpreting.
Whichever way I choose, all eyes are focussed on me ones I speak anyway, but I can't say it bothers me. I think that I the end it all depends on experience.
The only thing that really bothers me in any kind of (courtroom) interpreting work is that they still seem to live by the good old "kill the messenger" principle. I regularly have to remind the judges of the fact that the words coming out of my mouth are not my own, as everybody in the courtroom sometimes come to think.


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Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 04:04
English to Russian
+ ...
Don´t forget about sight translation! Jan 31, 2009

Which of the two modes - simultaneous or consecutive - is easier - is highly individual question. It used to be simultaneous for me, but I worked on it for years (and I mean - years), and I feel comfortable with it now.

But there is a third mode of interpretation - sight translation. It means: the input is written, but the output (the interpretation) is oral. In other words, you are given a written document and are asked to interpret it out loud. Just like the other two modes, it has to be done without omission or embellishments, and without changing the register.

Sounds easy? Well, take a complex legal document - in either English or Spanish, your choice - and try to interpret it out loud while recording yourself... You will immediately see that it is NOT easy at all, and requires as much practice and preparation as simultaneous and consecutive interpreting.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:04
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agree with Alexandra Jan 31, 2009

I also used to think consecutive was easier until I got more critical. And sight translation is not that easy at all.

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:04
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Personal traits Jan 31, 2009

I think it depends on the individual. Of course, experience counts, and I (deliberately) don't have so much in interpreting.

I do interpreting now and then because one can't be a certified/sworn public translator in Brazil without being such an interpreter as well. Crudely said, I won't interpret in court unless the cops make me do it. Nevertheless I've done it in some marriages and other such events. All other interpreting gigs I've done were because I knew the subject so thoroughly that, if the speaker passed out midway, I'd be able to finish his presentation alone, in both languages.

However I think it's up to the individual's personal talents. Every time I do sight translation I see people trying to peek at the paper I'm holding, as I talk quickly and don't stumble nor stutter any more than the average TV newscaster. Actually I've always read unusually fast since my childhood, so while doing sight trans I keep reading some 3 lines ahead of what I'm saying.

On the other hand, my memory buffer (in my brain, not my computer) is quite limited. So I translate video for dubbing (not real-time, the conventional way) in comparatively small chunks. This resuits in amazingly accurate metrics and outstanding lip-sync if the dubbing cast is good.

The result is that I need a lot of cooperation from the speaker to do consecutive. Before getting started I always make sure to agree on a "halt" sign (usually raising my right hand, all fingers together) when my buffer is 80% full.

I couldn't do simultaneous, not even in my dreams. Though I can keep ahead doing sight translation, it's because I can always move my eyes 2-3 lines back to the exact place I'm translating at that moment and pick it up from there. But the audio channel in my brain may be too narrow for simultaneous in&out traffic.

I guess some researching scientist may eventually find a way to predict an individual's interpreting ability from an X-ray scan of their brain.



A friend of mine does simultaneous interpreting between maybe 4-5 languages. I don't know how she manages it. Once I had a business meeting - not as a translator - where five different languages were spoken. I had to keep in mind which language should be used to address each individual there. It came out okay, but afterwards I realized it had messed up my mind, when I stepped into the elevator and had to stop and think what language I should use to tell the elevator operator (who hadn't been at that meeting, of course) my destination floor.


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