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Definition, History and Significance of Simultaneous Interpretation

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Before we start to examine difficulties of simultaneous interpretation, it would be useful to learn something about its history, advantages and significance in modern world. But first, we must give the definition – what is a simultaneous interpretation?

Simultaneous interpretation is an oral translation of an orally delivered message from a source language to a target language, which is done simultaneously with the delivered message [6, 137]. Its aim is to bridge the language and cultural barriers in the intercultural communication. Simultaneous interpreters render one spoken language into another – instantly. They interpret what the speaker is saying in real time, making multilingual conferences as fluid and direct as if all the delegates spoke one single language. Simultaneous interpreters are sometimes called UN-style interpreters, conference interpreters or simultaneous translators.

Though modern simultaneous interpretation with its use of sophisticated sound equipment is a relatively new method of providing for communication, the art of translation is as old as society is. Interpreting has been in existence ever since man has used the spoken word to a foreigner. It has therefore always played a vital role in the relationships between people of different origins since the beginning of mankind. However, there is a lack of hard evidence pinpointing the time of the creation of interpreting due to the fact that interpreting, unlike written translations, leaves behind no written proof. The first written proof of interpreting dates back to 3000 BC, when Ancient Egyptians had a hieroglyphic signifying "interpreter" [10, 5].

The next widely known use of interpreting occurred in Ancient Greece and Rome. For both the Ancient Greeks and Romans, learning the language of the people that they conquered was considered very undignified. Therefore, slaves, prisoners and ethnic hybrids were forced to learn multiple languages and interpret for the nobility.

Throughout the centuries, interpreting became more and more widely spread due to a number of factors. One such factor is religion. The people of many different religions throughout history have journeyed into international territories in order to share and teach their beliefs. Another factor that played a large role in the advancement of interpreting was the Age of Exploration. With so many expeditions to explore new lands, people were bound to come across others who spoke a different language. Interpreters served as a connection between the native population and the explorers and furthermore, they enabled many pacts and treaties to occur that otherwise would not have been possible; they have played a large role in the formation of the world that we know today [12, 4].



As we see, at various times interpreters have doubled as missionaries, diplomats, military envoys, business and trade negotiators and mediators. Acting in all these roles, they have interpreted foreigner`s language as well as their culture and politics.

In the medieval Europe Latin was the channel for communication of the whole continent, and there was no need in interpreters until the appearance of the diverse national languages.


Since French was the universal language of diplomacy and educated discourse, there was little need for high-level interpretation in the nineteenth-century Europe. The situation changed dramatically in 1919 at the Paris Peace Conference, when English was pronounced the second official language of the League of Nations and consecutive interpretation was first used. Simultaneous interpretation was introduced in 1928 at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in the former Soviet Union.

The first volume experiment of using simultaneous interpretation was carried out at the postwar Nuremberg Trials in 1945, when Colonel Léon Dostert, General Eisenhower’s personal interpreter, was called upon to find a practical solution to the language barrier because the traditional consecutive interpretation into four languages – English, French, German and Russian – would have unreasonably lengthened the hearings. Simultaneous interpretation seemed to be the answer, for this allowed speakers to be interpreted while they were speaking.
Many of the interpreters who had worked at Nuremberg, primarily emigrates and refugees with a knowledge of Russian, French, German, and English, later went on to become staff members at the United Nations [11, 2].

A new way of translation has acquired tremendous popularity due to its convenience and efficiency. Intellectual and, as a result, economic progress has played an important role in the formation of simultaneous interpretation, making it possible to prepare the technological base - one of the foundations of the wisely organized activities with the involvement of experts in the field. Availability and an endless array of other positive characteristics of simultaneous translation contributed among other things the rapid development of international business thus predetermining the dynamic development of the market within a single country, and around the world. Simultaneous translation, as a symbol of respectability and responsibility firmly entrenched in the business activity. This provided the necessary saturation of negotiations and minimized the amount of time spent on the preparation and implementation of projects in all areas of business, not to mention the politicians, who first experienced convenience of simultaneous interpretation.

Currently, the services of qualified interpreters are required not only by government agencies and conference organizers, but also managers of the companies involved in computers, satellite communications and many other types of global communications. Without simultaneous translation into several languages ​​modern international conferences would be impossible.


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