Interpreting that is neither consecutive nor simultaneous
Thread poster: Astrid Elke Witte

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:25
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
May 12, 2007

I might have to do an interpreting job that is neither consecutive nor simultaneous, and I think it will therefore be more difficult, but I would like opinions on how difficult.

The assignment would be to sit in a court room and explain to someone what the Judge is saying. I imagine that may be somewhat difficult to do well, namely:

Simultaneous interpreting, as far as I understand (I have never done it) would mean both listening and talking continually, however it would involve high concentration and instantly spitting out the words.

I have done consecutive interpreting. That is awkward if the person talks for ages and you have to take notes in order to remember it all. However, the speaker does stop eventually.

This proposal seems to me slightly more awkward than consecutive interpreting, because the speaker does not pause at all; and more awkward than simultaneous, because sitting listening and at the same time explaining the content to someone, in a conversational way, must be harder than maintaining absolute concentration and spitting out the words (without the conversational element being involved).

I do not want to let someone pay me to do this if it is not going to be possible to do it properly. On the other hand, someone is going to end up being given this particular task and the advantage of it being me is supposed to be that I know the court case in question inside out, backwards and in my sleep.

So will it be feasible or not?



Magda Dziadosz  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:25
Member (2004)
English to Polish
+ ...
Filtered summary May 12, 2007

Hi Astrid,

I've been interpreting in various settings and from your description I gather that the person for whom you will be interpreting is a kind of observer of the court proceedings and requires rather a summary of what is being said not a full translation of it. And that is doable and certainly a person who - like you - knows the case inside out is definitely best prepared to do it.

Simultaneous interpreting - whispering in this case, I assume - would be extremely difficult especially if you do not have experience in it and you are alone, that is without a partner to give you a break every, say, half an hour. Definitely not an option.

For consecutive, you would need a cooperation from a Judge, that is he/she should pause for you. This maybe actually difficult to get.

So what I think your client expects is rather a summary of what is being said. I've done this many times usually on various Board meetings when my client wanted just the interpreting of some core statements or discussion, things new to him/her. So, for example when at the beginning of the meeting all participants are formally introduced (and my clients knows very well who they are) I would only say that now they introduce each other, if they describe a situation which is very well known to my client - I wouldn't interpret all the details just give a brief summary and only really interpret if there are some new information or opinion. To do this well you really need to know deeply the matter and the case. You also need to listen very carefully - even if you do not interpret everything, you need to be prepared to answer questions like "Did he mentioned xxx?", "Did she referred to yyy?"
This is definitely feasible and it seems that you're really the best person to do it as you know the court case so well so you will be able to decide which parts can be just briefly summed up and which should be interpreted in details.

I wish you good luck!



Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:25
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Thanks for putting me in the picture May 13, 2007

Hi Magda,

Thanks for putting me in the picture so well. The person I have to explain the proceedings to is a representative from the company which is the lawyer's client and also knows the case extremely well (having read all my translations), so, yes, it would work to say, "He is referring to such-and-such a situation". I have translated the briefs between the parties every week for about 3 years, and the lawyer suggested to his client that I might be more suitable for the job than an experienced interpreter unfamiliar with the case. I was not myself sure whether this would be true, but I guess it probably is. Thankfully, it is not until about five weeks' time, so I have time to think about the subject matter too.



Local time: 18:25
Italian to English
I did this once May 13, 2007

Hi. I did this once, but the "client" concerned was my dad who had to listen to his occupational accident case in an Australian court. My dad didn't speak English although he understood it, but not at court case levels. I was/am bilingual so he took me with him to do the 'job'. I explained everything to him 'in my own' words and everything went fine. I think Magda above is right, you will have to summarize a lot and get the main notions over to your client. If you know the matter you are going to interpret, you have an advantage.



Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:25
English to Spanish
+ ...
Summary May 13, 2007

What it is basically involved here is summary interpretation, much easier than simultaneous which would otherwise have to be the mode, because you best not try to tell the judge to shut up.

Since both you and the person you will be interpreting for know the case well, it should be a piece of cake.


Heidi C  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:25
English to Spanish
+ ...
Just one point of caution... May 14, 2007

Well, I see that you have been working with this client, so you know each other and they know your extent of "knowledge" about the case.

BUT in other cases (or maybe even here)

You need to be able to include a disclaimer somewhere that you are not a lawyer and that any explanation, interpretation or summary has no judicial or legal value, and its purpose is just to facilitate communication or inform a third person...


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:25
Spanish to English
+ ...
Chuchotage + thick note pad May 14, 2007

Hi Astrid,

I'm with Magda on this, and would venture a second option just in case.

Since whispering may distract people depending on where you are, I suggest you bring an unobtrusive-sized note pad thick enough to pen 1-line summaries for both yourself and the client's convenience, if the situation calls for it. This will also help you reconstruct the sequence of arguments and expositions during more convenient times, particularly afterwards when you're already going through the proceedings.



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Interpreting that is neither consecutive nor simultaneous

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