Simultaneous interpretation


You can help them in this task if you follow the advice given in the leaflet prepared for you by the Interpretation Service of the ILO:
How to make the optimal use of interpretation.


The ILO is proud of its conference interpretation service.

It offers multilingual communication in a range of languages, including English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, German, Russian… depending upon the requirements of the meeting.

It was the ILO’s special tripartite structure that precipitated the very first experiments with simultaneous interpretation: governments, but also employers and workers needed to speak and listen in more languages than just the English and French used for international gatherings back when the Organization was founded in 1919.

To deal with this new phenomenon of multilingualism in the early 20th century, the ILO tried out a “telephonic translation” system, and several ILO staff members who were considered to have the talent and stamina to cope were given special training.

“Telephonic translation” has come a long way over the years, evolving as it has into modern simultaneous interpretation. It became more widely known to the general public after the 2nd World War, and has now developed into a complex profession which presupposes several years of higher education studies.

Interpreters do not translate words, they communicate messages. To be able to do so, they must have an excellent understanding of the languages with which they work – as well as the cultures to which those languages belong.

Conference interpreters must be resilient: they listen to a message in one language, analyse it in order to understand its content, transpose it in their minds from one cultural setting to another, and then speak the message in the other language; at the same time they must be listening to the rest of the message. Apart from an ability to “listen and speak at the same time” across two languages, they have to be capable of extreme levels of concentration for long spans.

Neurologists are constantly conducting research into interpreters’ brain activity to help their own understanding of the workings of human grey matter!

Submitting prepared speeches in advance

One major challenge for interpreters are the prepared texts that are read by participants in meetings. Interpreters cope readily with improvised speech – it contains natural hesitations and redundant turns of phrase. However, they know instinctively when somebody starts to read a text, as the nature of the language changes: it becomes denser and every word matters, because it has been carefully thought through. That is why interpreters always ask to receive prepared texts in advance so that they can give you, speakers and listeners, the best possible levels of accuracy.

In this connection the ILO has, yet again, been an innovator in interpretation, because it has put into place a system for you to transmit your prepared statements electronically up to the interpretation booths. The interpreters work better and, above all, they give you a better service. If this system is in operation in your meeting, it will be announced and advertised.