Simultaneous Interpreting is the service where the simultaneous translator or interpreter translates what the speaker says in real time. For this type of service, the listeners wear headphones and may choose to listen to the speaker’s voice or the simultaneous translation. This type of translation is usually used for lectures, large global business conferences and congresses.
Simultaneous interpreting is also used by TV channels, where the content is translated while the speaker is talking, which is very common for head of state’s speeches or even international sports events.
The History of Simultaneous Interpreting
The act of translating simultaneously has been known since the Ancient Egypt. Documents from 3000 A.C. reference what we would call an interpreters supervisor; however, the translation was not precise and the interpreters usually used mimic to transmit what was being said. Interpretation has worked this way for a long period in monasteries and synagogues, places that sheltered people from many different locations. Also, the translation of sacred books was performed at these locations.
Simultaneous Interpreting as it is known today was created in the Nuremberg Trial (1945-1946), when Nazi war criminals were judged by the Allies. Since there were witnesses, victims, judges and lawyers from different nationalities, consecutive translation (where the speaker pauses and awaits for the speech to be translated) would not be effective due to the large number of languages.
Therefore, IBM was requested to develop an equipment that would enable the simultaneous translation from a language into other languages, where the user could choose the language he/she would listen to.
The equipment has not changed much since then; the first version was heavier than those used nowadays, but the main features remain the same.
Today the UN (United Nations) uses simultaneous interpreting for all meetings and has not only the necessary equipment, but its own team of interpreters, what allows for participants to understand what is being said in real time, even without mastering the speaker’s language.
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