What exactly is interpretation?

What exactly is interpretation?

Mastering languages is important for anyone and it is even more so in an increasingly globalized world. Precisely for this reason, interpreters are increasingly in demand in the labor market and knowledge of languages at the highest level is a skill that is gaining weight.

Becoming an interpreter is a good step from a business point of view, but it is a career that requires a lot of passion and perseverance. In this article, we tell you everything that interpreters do, from what tasks they do to what skills they need to perform in this profession.

What is interpretation?

Interpretation is the act of translating a message, originally spoken in one language, into one or more different languages through an interpreter. 

It is used in meetings of all sizes, from international summits to scientific congresses, from medical and technical conferences to general assemblies, from corporate events to press conferences, two-person conversations and financial results presentations.

In the interpretation process, there are three parties involved: the sender, the interpreter and the receiver. The sender is someone who transmits a message in a specific language, unknown to the receiver. The interpreter is a professional who knows the language of the sender and simultaneously performs an interpretation of his message in the language understood by the receiver.

It should also be noted that the interpreter, beyond a mere translation, also transmits all the additional elements that accompany the message, such as feelings, implicit messages or gestures.

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What is simultaneous interpreting?

Simultaneous interpretation is when the interpreter translates a speech in real-time, speaking at the same time as the speaker, without pausing. To do this job, the interpreter must be equipped with headphones and a microphone from an acoustically soundproof booth. If the simultaneous interpretation is translated into multiple languages, each interpreter will need their own booth, which can be hired and disassembled specifically for the job.

This type of interpretation is appropriate and very common in contexts where there are a large number of participants, such as conventions or conferences. It can also be done remotely for webinars or video conferences, using ad hoc software and professional equipment. In this case, it is called Remote Simultaneous Interpretation (RSI).

Simultaneous interpretation is very demanding for the interpreter in charge. For this reason, normally two interpreters are hired so that they can alternate more or less every hour. While one of them is interpreting, the other manages the technical and production part, providing assistance, solving any technical problem or giving any type of support that is necessary.

Apart from simultaneous interpreting, there are four other interpretation techniques that are very common on the market:

Consecutive Interpreting

In this situation, the speaker makes a speech and takes small pauses to allow the interpreter to do his work. As the speaker makes his speech, the interpreter takes notes of the message so as not to lose information during the translation, paying special attention to keywords such as dates, names, places, etc. This mode is ideal for meetings with not too many people or training events, among others.

Whispering Interpreting

When using this technique, the interpreter stands behind the listener and whispers the translation of what the speaker says. This technique is effective in cases where only one person requires interpretation. Here, the interpretation meaning must be as accurate as possible.

Relay Interpreting

Relay interpreting is an indirect translation method where a relay language is used. That is, the translation is not direct as its name implies, but is done indirectly using two or more interpreters who speak a common language. In other words, an interpreter translates the original message into the relay language; then the other interpreters use that translated version to interpret into a third language. 

It’s basically a chain translation. For example, if there are no interpreters who translate from Russian to Romanian, one interpreter will translate the message from Russian to English, and then another interpreter will translate that message from English to Romanian.

Liaison Interpreting

This interpreting mode is used to facilitate communication between two parties or two groups who speak different languages. The interpreter translates in both directions to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly. Unlike simultaneous interpretation, the interpreter does not listen and speak at the same time but waits for the participants to complete their intervention to translate what has been said previously. 

To ensure good results, the language interpreter must have all the information necessary to prepare for the interpretation: who will be the participants, what is the relationship between them, what is the purpose of the meeting and what issues will be discussed.

How is interpretation performed?

Interpretation is done on the spot. It may take place live while the speakers are speaking (simultaneous interpreting) or after their intervention (consecutive interpreting). For consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation, the interpreter does not require the help of scripts, dictionaries, or other reference materials. The professional interpreter must translate the message from the interpreted language into the language into which it will be translated. 

For this, they must maintain the original intention and essence of the message. The interpreter must reformulate the message, using idiomatic expressions, colloquialisms and specific cultural references so that the target audience can understand it clearly and easily. The only resources an interpreter can rely on while doing its job are experience, good memory, and reflexes.

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Role of an interpreter

The role of the interpreter involves having to do many tasks at the same time. Being able to speak two languages fluently is not enough to be able to do this job. The interpreter is a professional who has carried out specific studies and has specialized in some sectors. 

As these professionals often have to convey the message from one language to another during business negotiations, conferences, and other situations where precision and accuracy are critical, it is always recommended that they have some level of industry expertise.

What skills does an interpreter need?

The essential skills to practice this profession are:

  • Excellent knowledge of its own language and of at least one foreign language
  • Oral and written comprehension skills
  • Oral and written expression skills
  • Ability to manage your time and that of others well
  • Active learning skills
  • A good critical sense
  • Service orientation
  • Excellent memorization skills
  • Good speech clarity
  • Excellent selective and distributed attention

Is an interpreter a translator?

What differentiates the two professionals is mainly that one works on oral speeches and the other on texts in written form. While the interpreter usually works with oral texts, orally translating a text from one language to another, the translator is mainly focused on translating written texts from one language to another.

Their skills can be applied in different settings and both can work in a wide variety of places, from public bodies such as parliaments to courtrooms, passing through the translation of official documents, publicity texts, technical instructions or corporate interpretation. Since both professions have many things in common, it is recommended that both know interpretation and translation to maximize their employability.

Looking for interpretation services?

We live in a fast-paced world, where international communications have increased thanks to a growing global network. To face this new reality, successful enterprises must find ways to interpret and translate interactions. SM Global is a third-party organization whose goal is to ease communication and attend entertainment needs through interpretation. 

Our interpreting services are built for a single purpose: accommodate you in all situations, whether they be casual or professional events. Learn more about our professional interpretation services!