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  • Writer's pictureNadine Hegmanns

Know your ropes

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

Before every assignment interpreters will spend several hours to familiarise themselves with the topic and vocabulary. But what happens if they do not prepare themselves adequately? I noticed that I get less and less material in the run-up to an event, and quite often I'm told that the speeches will be easy to deal with, simply because the audience is familiar with the technical vocabulary. In most cases, experienced interpreters can draw on their experience and wisdom, but the quality of the simultaneous rendition will suffer when they are not sufficiently prepared. As a consequence, they flounder in the booth, literally losing the red thread. Their décalage, i.e. the delay between the original speech and their interpretation, becomes shorter, they will cling to the words, not understanding the logic and thus the translation doesn't come naturally to them. Linguistic interference occurs, they won't be able to provide a fluent rendition. It's the little things that will pose a huge challenge: numbers become inaccurate, slips of the tongue are almost inevitable, it becomes harder to anticipate the words. Add a fast speaker to the mix and you're in a pickle.

When interpreters can familiarise themselves with the topic, however, when they do their research and study their vocabulary, when they can use their experience (and glossaries) from previous assignments, things will turn out much differently. Their renditions appear much more confident, it's easier for them to cope with the cognitive load, their reaction time during simultaneous interpreting is improved and they will find the right words at the right time. Granted, you can never be 100% sure what will be said during a live speech, but our job is so much easier when we are familiar with a topic. And that is exactly the reason why I will keep asking for as much prep material as possible.

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