From translating to interpreting

While they have much in common, translation and interpreting require very distinct abilities and operate in very different conditions. So, to go from translating documents to simultaneous interpreting requires some adjustments and some new skills.

1 Understanding the differences between means of communication
Interpreting is concerned with real-time spoken language. It is face-to-face, in the location, over the telephone or by audio and/or video link. Interpreters rarely get a copy of a predefined text and almost always are faced with unpredictability.
Written translation, on the other hand, can be done at any time after the text has been created: even the tightest deadline leave time for research, reflection, reassessment and revision.

2 Maintain conversational practice
It is very easy for a translator to get too “bogged down” in the written form of the languages in which they specialise and to neglect verbal conversation. In order to retain fluency in the language, it is important to engage in conversation with native speakers and keep in contact with how it is spoken (by watching television or films, or listening to the radio and podcasts, for example).

3 Develop improvisational skills
Translators have the advantage of time and the ability to research definitions and create glossaries. This is a luxury denied to interpreters, however, who often have to deal with unexpected interventions and shorten or reformulate sentences without losing the speaker’s intentions. In other words, they must be able to quickly improvise without breaking with the pace and tempo of the conversation, while always being confident in their choices.

4 Work in both directions
Interpreters are not always called upon to do simultaneous interpreting of a single speaker (e.g. a person delivering a speech, lecture or lesson); they often have to deal with debates and conversations involving two or more speakers. To do this, interpreters must be extremely fluent in both the source and target languages.

5 Translating the spoken… and non-spoken word

In addition to idioms, metaphors, analogies and technical terminology, which are already a challenge for any translator, interpreters must be able to understand and reproduce the characteristics of the spoken word beyond the actual word: the tone of voice, interjections, inflections and the emphasis placed on particular phrases – these are all specific features of spoken communication that must also be conveyed to the target audience.