How do translators listen to someome else speak while also repeating the words themselves in another language with some delay?


How do translators listen to someome else speak while also repeating the words themselves in another language with some delay?

In: 47

If you mean translating the spoken word, there is a delay. They are not translating word for word as the original speaker says them, there is no way to do that as languages have different structures.

Practice. Nothing more.

Preparation is everything. The more you know about a topic / speaker, the more you can anticipate their words and ideas. Now you’re no longer having to “listen, process, produce”, but instead simply metering out your words as the speaker hits the expected beats.

The above is particularly helpful when interpreting two languages whose words and ideas are ordered differently. Japanese/English and German/English come to mind—verbs come at the end typically, meaning unless you can anticipate how the speaker will conclude their phrase, you have to hold everything in memory until you can deliver your interpretation.

Others with more experience will surely add their two cents—there are quite a few techniques.

Alternative phrasing: How do translators not get confused when having to listen to someone else, while also speaking themselves in another language delayed by a few seconds?

I once had the experience of interpreting for two people at the same time while in Taiwan. There was a native speaker who also spoke some English and an American who also spoke some Mandarin. The event host had me sit between two people that needed interpretation for the event, one was an American who didn’t understand Mandarin, the other a Taiwanese man who understood little English.

The speakers tagged team back and forth, while I sat there leaning to the right or the left taking whatever the Taiwanese speaker was saying and translating to the American to my left and taking whatever the American speaker was saying and translating it to the Taiwanese to my right.

Things got a bit weird when the Taiwanese speaker started speaking English. You see, how a lot of it works due to sentence structure and other translation losses we tend to first bring the spoken words into concepts in our head, maintaining a narrative, some may say pure thought, and then simply speak out in the target language what this thought is. So what happened is I got the idea into my head, and since it was the Taiwanese speaker saying it I then leaned to the left and spoke it out again in slightly different English to the American.

This happened again later on when the American speaker started speaking Mandarin and I would bring the idea into my head and then speak it back out in different Mandarin to the Taiwanese man sitting to my right.

In all, while it took a couple tries to get the switching down, I had a blast and the two attendees got to enjoy the talks. Hopefully this illustrates part of the process for interpreting languages on the fly.

Sorry for the wall of text.
TLDR: It’s practice.
One of the best exercises is to listen to radio in your language and simply repeat every sentence in real time – give the radio something like a 5-10 words head start to begin with. This would be for ‘simultaneous interpreting’ which is the ‘live interpreting’ you usually see during conferences. You can wait for 2-3-4-x sentences, pause the audio and then repeat the words – that’s ‘consecutive interpreting’. You have to do it out loud – doing it in your head helps a bit, but it’s not the same.
(Radio or voice only is easier than watching TV; it’s less information to process – that’s why sometimes you’ll see interpreters close their eyes or look at a fixed point in space when working.).
Once you can do that easily, you move on to rephrasing instead of repeating. The goal isnt to just rephrase – the words you use don’t really matter, just the idea. Once you get the hang of that, you move onto preserving the register – if they use ‘dude’ you use something like that, you do not replace it with ‘sir’.
Once you got that, you introduce the other language.
Most of us use traditional memory tricks inadvertently – for example I create a very simple movie in my mind turning a sentence like “he picked up a red flower” into a few frames and just describe that scene in the different language. If I’m interpreting something regarding body movements, I will imitate them eg: ‘punched with the right hand’ makes me clench my right fist and tense my right arm which helps me remember these extra details which are incredibly important in a legal setting – think of a police interview.
We also use notes – we don’t actually use full words and my notes would not be understandable by any other interpreter. I can’t even understand them the next day. They’re symbols, signs, shorthand, etc. The only recognisable writing would be numbers and proper nouns. My notes were “subpoenaed” once and it was the funniest thing trying to explain to some fancy detectives that I have no idea what’s in them.
After enough practice you can listen to people talk in different languages at the same time and be able to separate and interpret each stream after.
Although I can interpret accurately at pretty much any speech speed, if you ask me about it the next day or even an hour later, I will not be able to give you any details. I call that ‘inbuilt confidentiality’.

This is not “translation”, but it is just as… confusing.

Mike Rowe in Adventures in Voiceover.


The part of your brain that listens and comprehends language is separate from the part that formulates words and speaks (I don’t have any scientific backing to this, but that’s how it feels to me). The speaking part certainly requires less concentration and can kind of work on autopilot. So whenever I do simultaneous interpretation, I just focus on what I’m listening to and let my mouth mindlessly retell what it has heard (but in another language).

They relay a message in the perspective language

Speaker to LEP : how are you doing today?
Spanish Interpreter to LEP: Cómo está hoy.
LEP to Speaker: Estoy bien gracias.
Interpreter to Speaker: I am fine, thank you.

Lots of practice to assist with the fluidity and ease of conversation. They take turns.

I work for an interpreting company and it’s definitely fascinating to witness. My coworker, in my old department, was deaf so I also witnessed lots of interpreting sessions in meetings as well.