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Understanding A Language You Do Not Speak With Conference Interpretation

By Patrice McCoy

With increasing travel and communication across the world, conferences can have participants from different countries. This could be a recipe for disaster but for the use of conference interpretation. This enables every participant to speak in his own language while understanding the message of the others who are speaking a different language.

Conference explanation handles the speech while the speaker is speaking. Often people mistakenly refer to this as Translation. Translators only have to handle text or recorded speech and they can use the help of dictionaries and other aids to carry out the task. The focus of interpretation, however, is to convey the speaker's message including his conviction and intonation and does this in real time.

The explanation can be done in a variety of ways. The most common mode is 'simultaneous interpretation'. The interpreter sits in a soundproof box from where the speaker can be seen. He listens to whoever is talking and then speaks into a microphone in the target language and is heard by a participant by selecting his channel. The speaker continues speaking without any noticeable break.

When meetings are held with heavy technical content, it becomes difficult for the interpreter to keep up with the speaker. Speakers are aware of this and have pauses in their speech. Interpreters note down points as the speaker talks and when the break comes, will speak then into his. This method is called 'consecutive interpretations'.

As the number of languages in play increases, it becomes impossible to get interpreters who can handle all the tongues being spoken. This is solved by interpreting to a few of the well known languages which are then conveyed to every target language by a second set of interpreters. This process is called 'relay'.

The language spoken by an interpreter and heard by his audience is called his 'active' language. And the language listened to and understood by an interpreter is his 'passive' language. When there are an equal number of active and passive languages in a conference, it is said to be a 'symmetric regime'.

Sometimes advantage is taken by the fact that all participants can understand several languages while they deliver speeches in their own language. By selecting a smaller set of languages that ensure everyone can understand, the demands on the interpreter decreases. This mode is called an 'asymmetric regime'. For example a 5-2 language regime will have all speakers talking in one of the 5 tongues. However, the interpretation is only done in the 2 languages that cover the entire audience.

It is possible to handle an audience which has deaf members. A Sign language interpreter stands near the deaf persons and interprets the spoken words. If there are blind people present, a deaf interpreter can watch the sign language and copy on the hands of the blind person.

As can be seen from the above, conference interpretation has come a long way. It has tackled the challenge of the communication between speakers conversing in a large number of different languages. By ensuring good quality interpreters, one can be sure that the message of the speaker is conveyed faultlessly to another person who does not understand that language.

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