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Consecutive or simultaneous - different brains?
Thread poster: Berni Armstrong

Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:54
Member
English
+ ...
Mar 25, 2004

Hi all,

welcome to our new forum. I just wondered whether people think that simultaneous translation is a skill that can be learned or is a true gift.

I have occasionally done consecutive interpretation for conferences, but I have never tried getting my head around simultaneous translation. I have tried it "in the privacy of my home" and I just feel I would blow my head off if I attempted to do that for pay! I really admire those who do it professionally - and even some of my students at the UAB seem to have the gift and are already far superior to me in that area.

So. Gift or skill? Your call?


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Evert DELOOF-SYS  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 04:54
Member
English to Dutch
+ ...
Both, dear Bernie Mar 25, 2004

Berni Armstrong wrote:

Hi all,

welcome to our new forum. I just wondered whether people think that simultaneous translation is a skill that can be learned or is a true gift.

I have occasionally done consecutive interpretation for conferences, but I have never tried getting my head around simultaneous translation. I have tried it "in the privacy of my home" and I just feel I would blow my head off if I attempted to do that for pay! I really admire those who do it professionally - and even some of my students at the UAB seem to have the gift and are already far superior to me in that area.

So. Gift or skill? Your call?


What else could I have replied here?
Methinks talent doesn't bloom without skill and practice.


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Monika Coulson  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:54
Member (2001)
English to Albanian
+ ...
Both and more Mar 25, 2004

Me thinks:

5% gift.
95% practice, practice, practice.

And oh, 100% love for this job

Monika


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:54
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
A pursuit of meaning with lots of adrenalin thrown in Mar 25, 2004

Just think that, at its most seamless, written translation churns out around 600 words an hour. Compare that with the up to 850 you can upload orally in 5 minutes and you have a rough sensation...

Maybe I'm just recovering from the high-diving crash that my computer went into last night, when it crunched 4,000 words (kaputt, gone, disapparated) with a click of the mouse at 3:30 a.m. and the deadline was at noontime today. All the tiredness left me - there was no other choice but to recover the text in simultaneous oral mode, so I began to "speak" the translation.

In two hours it was back on the screen, improved, purged of previous superficiality and ready for revision.

It also goes to show that the "documentation" part of it is indispensable.


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 00:54
English to Spanish
+ ...
humm... Mar 25, 2004

Monika Coulson wrote:

Me thinks:

5% gift.
95% practice, practice, practice.

Monika




As I see it: 99% gift and 1% practice.

It was only after completing a posgraduate course on interpreting that I confirmed I would NEVER be an interpreter.

With deep respect to the "Magicians" (no time, no backspace key, no dictionaries...wow...that IS magic)

Au



[Edited at 2004-03-25 18:19]


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ntext  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:54
Partial member
German to English
+ ...
Different brains Mar 25, 2004

Any kind of interpretation can be challenging. But even though simultaneous has a reputation of being harder than consecutive, I don't find that to be necessarily true, at least not when many details are being communicated.

Assuming the speaker talks at a moderate pace and I can acoustically hear him well (preferably via headphone), I find it easier to interpret faithfully when using the simultaneous method. My brain is better at rapidly processing linguistic structures than it is at remembering lots of details.

When interpreting consecutively, I remember meaning more easily than details (which may have something to do with what Jungian personality theory refers to as a preference for Intuition vs. Sensation).

So to answer your question: I believe that there is a major "talent" component to this (more than 5%), though that doesn't mean that training and experience make no difference.


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:24
English to Tamil
+ ...
My posting elsewhere applies here too. It is a question of adrenalin flowing through you Mar 25, 2004

I consider myself an interpreter too and accept French as well as German interpreting with English as the other language in the pair. In response to another thread I posted the following:
See:http://www.proz.com/topic/19369?post_id=129070
"Let me explain with an event that really took place. I was to broadcast for the French Division of the All India Radio External Services. The car was to pick me up at 10.30 P.M. and reach the radio station by 11 P.M. The News in English will usually be handed over on arrival and I will have to keep the French version ready for reading live during the broadcast. But on this particular day the car came very late, I reached the radio station at 00.45 A.M. and the broadcast was to start at 01.15 A.M. Further, I was the sole person in charge of the announcement as well as News reading lasting 10 minutes. There was no time even to despair. I just collected the News in English and rapidly translated the headlines and had a rapid examination of the News in detail. The News had to be started at 1.20 A.M., just 5 minutes after the commencement of the broadcasting. At the appointed hour I started reading the headlines. I then took out the first sheet and started ex-tempore translation. My eyes read the news in English and my vocal output was in French. One by one the sheets were read out in that manner and 1.30 A.M. approached. I just read the headlines again. And that was that. For 10 minutes of reading, I guess it will be 1200 words. And it was done in 10 minutes. As they say fear provides wings. And I had a nice flight. The control room people were quite happy and I too was not unhappy.
Well, I wouldn't be exactly looking forward to such an experience again!"
In this particular instance my eyes were reading English and my vocal output was in French. This is the ideal situation in simultaneous/conference interpreting. The speaker's text is supposed to be handed over beforehand, at least as far as the original paper reading is concerned. But I hasten to add that I will hesitate very much before accepting conference interpreting jobs. I am doing consecutive interpreting of course. I take this opportunity to greet my dear interpreter colleagues.
Regards,
N.Raghavan

[Edited at 2004-03-25 19:02]

[Edited at 2004-04-01 10:17]


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Uwe Kirmse  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:54
Polish to German
+ ...
Changing brains :-) Mar 25, 2004

Norbert Gunther Kramer wrote:
Any kind of interpretation can be challenging. But even though simultaneous has a reputation of being harder than consecutive, I don't find that to be necessarily true, at least not when many details are being communicated...


When I was younger, so 15 years ago, I loved consecutive interpreting. I was able to remember long parts of text and to repeat them word by word in the other language.

Now I've problems to remember even two sentences, but I've absolutely no problem with simultaneous interpreting. It's still the same brain, but it has changed


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:54
English to Spanish
+ ...
Different, yes Mar 25, 2004

I have always been best at simultaneous because it is what I do. And I heartily agree with what colleagues have stated here.

The only way I can do consecutive is to still do it simultaneously is because I am wired to process it and get it out right now. A second or two later I may not recall the details. It takes memory training and note-taking skills to do consecutive, and that's another ball game.

In consecutives situations I warn the speaker that I will be breaking in after only short utterances, "and bear with me, because I don't remember much, so if you ramble on you'll be talking to the wind".

I think it would be difficult to excell at both, each one takes different wiring in the brain. However, using simultaneous techniques in such situations, though disconcerting at first, is such a time-saver that many people turn out liking it after all!


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Fabiana Papastefani-Pezzoni  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 05:54
Member (2003)
English to Albanian
+ ...
So right.... Mar 25, 2004

So right, what Monika says: it is mostly a matter of practice then gift. Of course, they are people that would never coop with that and there's where gift interacts.

So right, what Norbert says: it is not true that consecutive is easier then simultaneous. Moreover, just as Henry says, very often, I wouldn't be so god to remember details after even after the third second of the speech. But they speak for, at least, 10 seconds at a time. There are cases when people ask the consecutive and in this cases I simultaneously keep notes and then I go...especially when I translate for Budged Reviews, Audits or similar things when "figures" is most of the speaking.

But simultaneous is a lot more fun, in my opinion. I find it difficult to go on consecutive mode, it so slow and boring some times.

Fabiana


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:54
Flemish to English
+ ...
No different brains, but training. Mar 25, 2004

No different brains, but high-level interpreter training given by seasoned interpreters (90%) and 10% luck. One of my fellow students had a photographic memory, which helped him a lot with consecutive.
You get some 448 hours of interpreting per academic year, half of which is consecutive and that is a good start. At the better schools, you also get voice coaching and a good voice can make a world of difference.
Besides, don't you have to put the same rhythm and pitch in your voice?
Consecutive interpreting (8-10 minutes consec) is used as a selection tool for access to the "better" interpreter schools, and for recruitment exams at various (international) institutions.

In case of consecutive, knowing the consecutive system of H.Rozan may help to write down subject, verb, subordinate sentence (very short), figures, names, titles and connections between those elements. This enables you to render the nuclear ideas of a speech, summarized paragraph per paragraph.

A trick, I apply for simultaneous is staying that split second behind the speaker without loosing his/her speech and interpret it immediately what I hear (preferably in a booth) into the target-language. For simultaneous, the words just have to come out. If you lose the content of the speech, you might find yourself in an awkward situation.

However, I remember an instance when the CEO of a company presented the annual report at a high velocity of speech.
At that moment all the interpreters remained remarkably quiet (:.
With interpreting it is mother-tongue only? When you sit a table during dinner with a CEO or minister, who asks you to interpret into a language which is not your mother-tongue, what do you do? Refuse. They pay your rate...
The difference between translation and interpreting is that what has been said does not have to be 100% accurate. It has to reflect the basic idea.
Verbum volant, scriptem manent.








[Edited at 2004-03-25 21:49]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:54
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Everything points to different brains Mar 25, 2004

I know the "wired" feeling that Henry refers to (I rather identify with this preference), as well as the meaning that lingers after the numbers and dates have evaporated (note-taking by itself is a different art altogether). As interpreters have preferred modes, they also have preferred venues. Some people I know who trained for congress work are actually much happier now in courts or social services. Some have made a specialty out of press conferences. In that sense, you might say there are niches in the interpreters' world.

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ahowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 22:54
Japanese to English
+ ...
no mentioning of note-taking skills... Mar 26, 2004

1)How come so many of you mentioned the need to have something like a photographic memory or that you find yourselves forgetting things within seconds when you're referring to consecutive interpreting (CI). When I was trained for interpreting, we spent a good month at least learning, refining, getting used to and practising note-taking skills before even tackling any heavy-duty CI. In fact, other language programs teach notetaking for a whole semester!

2) As for a comment regarding simultaneous interpretation into your mother tongue, this probably applies to French or Spanish. But for most oriental languages, such as Chinese or Japanese, you have to be good at interpreting into your A and B languages in order to be marketable! It would be so much easier if we could only work into one language.

3) Does anyone find that they often have to "educate" their clients the distinction between interpretation and translation? Just think of the film entitled "Lost in Translation"!!! That was interpretation, not translation!!!!!!


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:54
Flemish to English
+ ...
Consecutive and Oriental languages Mar 26, 2004

I have always been fascinated by oriental languages. At the moment, I try to assimilate Hiragana and basic Kanji.
The consecutive system is based upon some basic symbols, to which you add your own symbol. But with Japanese and Chinese the meaning is already in the symbol. Doesn't that make life easier?



[Edited at 2004-03-26 07:57]


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invguy  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 05:54
English to Bulgarian
The Napoleon thing Mar 26, 2004

I've only had to do simultaneous interpreting a couple of times, and I've felt as if I had to exist in two parallel worlds. For me, it was like enforcing onto myself a split personality syndrome

Maybe those who possess Napoleon's proverbial ability to do several things at the same time would feel more comfortable... not me, by all means...

Which leads me to the thought that our female colleagues are supposedly better at it than us men


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