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Interpreting in the 21st Century


Professional interpreting services, like those provided by GlobaLexicon, can help a business or organisation communicate with those who speak other languages, across a wide range of situations. Interpreting is one of the most difficult skills a linguist can master, as they need to have the ability to process information quickly, whilst constantly keeping their language skills up to par and being mindful of the context in which they are.

You might be expecting to find from this post that, like in many other occupations, the interpreters of today have largely benefited from technology developments. You might also think that due to this, they can in no way be compared to the first person ever to try their hand at interpreting. Well, it might then come as a surprise that, unless an interpreter is so highly skilled that they can carry out any and all types of online research, while saying something they’ve quickly translated in their mind, and ensuring it sounds good to the target audience, all the while listening intently to the following sentence that will also need to be translated, there’s been little relevant improvement to this profession over time.

While some interpreters will be proud to say that they still rely on their language skills more heavily than anything else, others who wish to boost their skills with technological advances might complain that there has not been enough development in this field. Being – according to a teacher I once had – the second oldest occupation in humanity, the simultaneous, or immediately consecutive, oral translation as a method of communication has been a necessity for as long as we can remember.

The first disconcerting moment in history where people realised they could no longer communicate with their neighbours in the same language would mark the origin of a huge barrier, but also the birth of a new, invaluable profession. However, is it even possible for us to calculate how or when that happened? What was the reason people wanted to break that language barrier in the first place? Did they want to trade, declare war on each other, establish relationships, set new diplomatic rules, convert people to their own religion, impose their cultural presence…? The possibilities are endless.

Even though it would be difficult to discern what those reasons were, one thing is for sure; it’s never been an easy job. If we focus on the role, can we say that an interpreter’s life has changed all that much? Despite today’s language-learning techniques, ease of access to information, computerised researching and the plethora of interpreting equipment such as microphones, speakers, earphones, headphones, web platforms etc., it essentially comes down to one thing; people with extraordinary language fluency, who will most of the time be dealing with completely unforeseeable situations.

For example, imagine you’ve been invited to interpret at an oncology convention. You’ve studied the subject, brought along a glossary, researched the companies involved and the topics to be raised, and thought about any points that might be discussed during the event. Halfway through it however, a speaker suddenly decides to go through the legal issues of a hospital that you’ve never heard about before. If you’re a good interpreter, you’ll of course be specialised in that area, but you’ll also have considerable general knowledge of other subjects (including legal terms), meaning you should be able to convey the message clearly to get the job done.

When we say that to be an interpreter takes more than being fluent in two languages, this is not an exaggeration, especially when it comes to simultaneous translation. Merely understanding everything someone is saying in one language does not mean you’ll be able to reproduce it correctly in another, especially as no-one is hired to interpret just one sentence. Professional interpreters may actually work for hours. A physical path starts to form between two parts of the brain when you start interpreting regularly, and that process can be painful and tricky to navigate at the beginning. Interpreting for too long can also be highly fatiguing due to the level of concentration required, which is why for long events, more than one interpreter is hired so they can take turns and make sure the quality and accuracy of the translation is consistent.

Here at GL, we do face-to-face and over-the-phone interpreting, which can be either simultaneous or consecutive. We also provide what is called Asynchronous Audio Translation as an alternative to transcribing interviews. This is where you send us an audio file that we in turn interpret for you within an agreed time frame!

Members of our team are all specialised in one or two main areas and can translate into several languages, including French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, Mandarin, Arabic, Polish, Bulgarian, Farsi, Turkish, Urdu and Hindi.

Are you looking for an interpreter? Find out more on how to get the perfect interpreting service for your event, meeting, or interview!

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