Difference in written translation and interpreting has been fixed by two international professional associations: F.I.T. (Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs) or the International Federation of Translators, the association of written translators; and A.I.I.C. (Association Internationale des Interprètes de Conferénce), or the International Association of Conference Interpreters, dealing with oral translation.
As is seen from the name of the professional association, interpreters are often called conference interpreters, though their functions can be much broader. Conference interpreting is known to have started after World War I, at the Conference on the Preliminaries of Peace in 1919. Until then all international meetings had been held in French, the language of 19th century diplomacy.
The first conference interpreters did consecutive interpreting, i.e. they delivered their translation after listening to the speaker so that there was some time between the source language text and the translation. The interpreters worked in teams of two, each into his mother tongue. At the League of Nations, interpreters went to the rostrum to deliver their translation as soon as the speaker had finished. Occasionally speeches lasted well over an hour, so the interpreters, considering it bad taste to interrupt a speaker, developed a technique of consecutive interpreting with note-taking.
Two Geneva conference interpreters, J.-F. Rozan and J. Herbert, after having reviewed their own as well as their colleagues’ writing pads, came to the conclusion that although each interpreter had his or her own manner of writing, there was something common to all the notes reviewed. This brought to life recommendations to would-be interpreters on how to take notes in order to memorize the message and not to interrupt the speaker.18
Unlike shorthand, an interpreter’s system of note-taking or speedwriting is not a word-for-word recording of speech. It is based on the conceptual representation of the message utterance by utterance and helps to single out the main idea of the speaker. The main principles of note-taking are as follows:
· only key-words and the so called ‘precision’ words (i.e. words conveying unique information, e.g., proper names, statistics, etc.) are put down;
· words are contracted (vowels are omitted, the so-called Arabic approach);
· special symbols are used;
· the syntactic structure has a vertical progression:
Object (homogeneous parts of the sentence are written one under the other).19
The ‘sentence-by-sentence’ interpreting often found in liaison and community interpretingá is not regarded now as ‘true consecutive’.20 Liaison interpretingtakes place in spontaneous conversational settings,21 while community interpretingis typical of the public service sphere.22
These days consecutive interpreting is used mostly in bilateral contacts, to serve only two languages.
Interpreting may take place in two directions when the interpreter has to work for both language participants. This is a two-way, or bidirectional, translation (interpretation) and it requires a special skill of switching the languages to speak to, suppose, a Russian participant in Russian and to an English participant in English and not vice versa. A one-way interpreting means translation from one language only and is usually employed for summit meetings.
There is a sub-variety of the consecutive interpreting, known as postponed consecutive interpreting. This is a translation which is not performed in the presence of the participants, but which is dictated from the interpreter’s notes into a dictating machine or typed, in case the participants have understood the speaker but want to think over the discourse to take appropriate decisions on it.
Consecutive interpreters are also called linear interpreters, for their translation is in line with the source text unlike simultaneous translation that overlaps the original speech.
Simultaneous interpreting, i.e. interpreting almost immediately as the speaker produces the text (the interpreter can lag behind the speaker not more than 2 or 3 seconds), came into life much later, at the Nuremberg trials (1945-1946) and Tokyo trials (1946-1948) of war criminals, though some attempts had been made in the late 1920s and the early 1930s. In the USSR, simultaneous interpreting was first introduced at the 6th Congress of the Communist International in 1928, with the interpreters sitting in the front row of the conference hall trying to catch speakers’ words coming from the rostrum, and talking into heavy microphones hanging on strings from their necks.23 Isolated booths for interpreters appeared five years later, in 1933.
Simultaneousinterpreting gained ground at the United Nations Organization that began the era of multilateral diplomacy. Today’s simultaneous interpreters, unlike their predecessors, are provided with special equipment. They work in a special booth, listening through a headset to the speaker in the conference room and interpreting into a microphone, while at the same time watching what is going on in the meeting room through the booth window or viewing projections on the TV screen. Delegates in the conference room listen to the target-language version through a headset.
Simultaneous translation is usually employed at multilanguage (multilateral) meetings, so that conference participants can switch their headphones to the appropriate language channel.
Simultaneous interpreting is very exhausting work. It requires extremely concentrated attention. The interpreter should adjust his/her own speech tempo to that of the speaker. Several skills are simultaneously featured: listening, speaking, switching to another language, compressing information. Simultaneous interpreting is possible due to the human ability to anticipate and forecast what will be said in some minutes (âĺđî˙ňíîńňíîĺ ďđîăíîçčđîâŕíčĺ).24 To do it, one must have a good command of the subject matter under discussion. Since the simultaneous interpreter’s work is so intense and the conditions are extreme, interpreters are usually changed at the microphone every 20 or 30 minutes.
Simultaneous translation may take place not only in the special booth. There is also whispered interpreting(or chuchotage) where the interpreter sits between the participants and whispers his/her translation to them. This type of translation is often used in a business meeting.
The simultaneous interpreter can get the source text in written form, which does not make his/her job easier, since the interpreter has to do simultaneously three jobs: read, listen and interpret. It is a most strenuous task, for the interpreter has to be watchful of the speaker deviating from the text.
Written translation is also divided into sub-varieties. It may be a visualtranslation (a written text is before the translator’s eyes), translation by ear (in this case the translator listens to the text and writes the translation: dictation-translation), sight translation, (i.e. translation of the written text without preliminary reading, usually done orally).
The most obvious differences between written translation and interpreting are as follows:
§ translators have time to polish their work, while interpreters have no time to refine their output
§ any supplementary knowledge, for example terminological or world knowledge, can be acquired during written translation but has to be acquired prior to interpreting
§ translators can re-read their texts, they do not have to memorize big segments, while interpreters are able to listen to the text but once
§ interpreters have to make decisions much faster than translators
§ unlike written translation, interpreting requires attention sharing and involves severe time constraints. Following the United Nations norms of six to eight pages of written translation per day, the professional translator typically produces about five words per minute or 300 words per hour. The simultaneous interpreter, in contrast, has to respond instantly at a rate of 150 words per minute or 9000 words per hour.25