Something I could never manage


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Last week at our event, we had a simultaneous interpreter. Some people are impressed by extreme athletes, others by neurosurgeons or firemen. While I do think those do a great job, I am currently most awed by simultaneous interpreters. I had never before had the opportunity to listen in on one but now I am even more floored.

The translator sat in her booth and as our Swedish panelist spoke, she translated to German in our headphones (and vice versa). Most of the time, she was one word behind. That is probably not even a second. She listened, thought and spoke all the same time. Many people cannot even think and speak at the same time, in their own language.

Being fluent, even bilingual, in two languages is not at all the same as being able to interpret simultaneously. Even trained translators and interpreters can’t do it, you have to have the gift to be able to do it simultaneously. I’ve tried once to translate a friend to another friend and I failed brutally. No chance.

And there is this incredible interpreter just putting out all these perfect sentences while listening to the next sequence! I had one headphone on and one ear in the room, comparing the original and the translation. It was basically flawless.

I concur with Francois Grosjean, who says, “I have the utmost respect for interpreters and the training they have to go through to do their job well”.


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