Every interpreter knows from experience that, all things being equal, a fast speaker is harder to interpret than one who delivers their speech at a normal pace… So, what is a budding conference interpreter to do when tackling the challenge caused by speed?
The obvious response is to apply speed in turn – and, indeed, when confronted by a fast speaker, interpreters must always make their brain work as fast as possible!
But: does this necessarily mean they must also speak at top speed?
Well… as in pretty much everything in interpreting (or in life for that matter), the answer is: it depends. In an ideal situation, of course, our aim is to say everything we hear. If, however, this is impossible, in the split-second decision on how to respond to the challenge one goal is paramount: to never sacrifice the message, the point, the key idea or ideas that the speaker wants to convey to the audience. The speaker’s main message(s) constitutes the very minimum that interpreters must also make sure they transmit clearly to the audience that is relying on their interpretation.
Imagine someone introducing themselves with the following sentence: “My name is A B C, I am a conference interpreter in the Spanish booth at the European Parliament working from X Y Z, and I would like to thank everyone for coming”.
Say it is so fast that it is impossible to catch every detail. What would the most important part be, in the following situations?:
If everybody in the room is a conference interpreter, some staff some freelance
If everybody in the room works at the European Parliament, in different jobs
If everybody is a Spanish interpreter with different working languages
If everybody is an interpreter working from Y into their own language
If the speaker is chairing it, or if they are a participant
If the meeting was called last minute
etc… Continue reading