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Written by Y. Hsu, a senior simultaneous English-Chinese interpreter

There are numerous International events or cross-border meetings that will require simultaneous interpretations in place.  As an interpreter, I have worked in many such occasions, and  in some of them, the speaker doesn’t know there are simultaneous interpreters, sitting in the sound-proof booth, trying to transfer his or her ideas to the audience sitting below.

Being a professional simultaneous interpreter is not an easy task, it requires lots of preparation and accumulated experience.  However, it seems to me that the speakers rarely approach the interpreter to inquire how to cooperate better during the speech.  After all, if the interpreter has trouble doing the job properly and the speech can’t be understood by the audience, it’s like talking to a wall.  Here I’d like summarize 4 important points for the speakers to remember – if you want your speech to be properly.

  1. Speak in moderate speed

Simultaneous interpreters are just human beings, they  can’t translate 100% of what you say, word by word.  A good interpreter can convey about 85% of the content without losing important details.  If you are a fast speaker, please watch your speed and don’t just talk fast just to finish what you want to say, because chances are most of the content is not properly transferred to the audience.

I would like to suggest the talking speed (and the clearance) of judge Lauren Lake, it’s a perfect speed for any simultaneous interpreters to listen upon.

2. Use short and straight-forward sentences

Some people like to start a sentence, and then stop to insert some other ideas that just come to his mind. Don’t do that.  Just finish what you want to say, then start a new sentence if you want to give an example or to add up some other ideas.  And please oh please, use short sentences.  There are languages out there, such as Chinese, that the sentence structure is different from English, and often an interpreter needs to hear the end of the sentence in order to translate.  So if you don’t make a break, the interpreter will have trouble to follow up simultaneously.

3. Do not tell language-related jokes

We all know the importance of being humorous, but a joke that is based on the source language will not be able to translated or understood by people who are not familiar with it.  For example, jokes that use puns, slang, accent etc can be funny only for the people who know that language.

However, universal humors are not limited.

4. Dear Speaker, please do not talk to yourself

Talking with breeze and ease doesn’t mean you can talk on stage the way you talk to your neighbors.  One of the most bothering situations for simultaneous interpreters is to try to understand the murmurs during the speech.  Do not think you can talk like an interview in talk show.  That includes, “oh let me think about it for a minute, um, well, …”  Do not talk whatever is on your mind! Say only the important things, and save the audience and the interpreters from your mind-churning self talk.

Talk with the right voice volume, no self-talk, you will be loved by simultaneous interpreters all over the world.