“100 years of Conference Interpreting”: best tweets from Geneva, October 3-4 2019

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With special thanks to all conference interpreters from all over the world who have been in Geneva over the last few days to contribute to our profession with their speeches, questions, debates, ideas and insights!

Here is a collection of the best tweets from #Conf1nt100.

When the interpreting doesn’t work, the meeting doesn’t work. When the interpreting is reliable, the meeting works.

(Guy Ryder)

Did you know that simultaneous interpreting used to be called “telephone interpreting” in its early days? The first audio system was designed by IBM.

(Cyril Belange)

Interpreting is not so susceptible to automation as some suggest.

(Guy Ryder)

How will technology be used not just to enhance interpretation services but to change them? (…) We must ensure that the future of interpreting is what we wish it to be, not what others think it should be.

(Guy Ryder)

When the interpretation stops, discussions stop; if the interpretation is not there, the process grinds to a halt.

(Guy Ryder)

Interpreting is a human experience. It is. Technology makes it possible, but it remains a human experience. That is where its greatest value resides.

(Barry S. Olsen)

However incoherent or illogical they may be speaking in their own language, somebody in the booth somewhere is going to make sense of it.

(Guy Ryder)

Perhaps the sharpest weapon in any arsenal is a qualified professional interpreter.

(Uroš Peterc)

Why study the history of interpreting?

“Historia est magistra vitae.” Cicero

“What happened in the past can influence what is happening today. But what is happening today does not influence the past.” Jesus Baigorri

“Know your history, know your profession.” Me

(Barry S. Olsen)

Interpreting promotes democracy and equality, mitigating power differences.

(Jesús Baigorri)

What was initially considered impossible – listening to be speaker while simultaneously conveying what the speaker was saying in another language – was discovered to be possible after all!

(Rachel Farmer)

After WWII, Japanese was considered too distant a language from English to be interpreted simultaneously. Interestingly, simultaneous interpreting from Japanese was actually provided at the ILO as early as 1928!

(Rachel Farmer)

Simultaneous interpreting began at the United Nations while the Nuremberg Trials were still underway.

(Jesús Baigorri Jalón)

Nuremberg interpreters had to deal with linguistic issues like the “past tense” but above all, they had to handle a very strong emotional charge.

(Jesús Baigorri Jalón)

Jean Herbert was known to say, “interpreting can be divided into theory and practice. So, let’s focus on practice.” I can relate to that. Not to say that theory isn’t important, but I’m a practical guy. To the extent that theory informs practice, I’m all for it.

(Barry S. Olsen)

Apparently some interpreting users used to see it as magic… then it became a profession. (It’s still magic. We just know how the trick is done.)

(Jonathan Downie)

Japanese was thought impossible to simultaneously interpret, despite the fact it had been done already – I’m glad that there’s at least one Japanese in the room to have the honour to be here and to listen to unmissable speeches on interpreting.

(Rié Hiramatsu)

The subject of interpreting is structured into two main parts, theory and practice. And now that theory is done, let’s start with the practice.

(Jean Herbert)

Our profession won’t have a future if we don’t give it a past.

(Jesús Bairgorri Jalón)

Why do staff interpreters have a 50/50 male-to-female ratio, while there are three female interpreters for every male interpreter in the profession in general?

(Josh Goldsmith)

Everyone wants interpreters to be “faithful to the original speaker” – but everyone has a different definition of what this means!

(Jonathan Downie)

Use their terminology, not ours, and you get much better answers.

(Jonathan Downie)

Stakeholder expectations are not static.

(Jonathan Downie)

The better we understand client needs, the better we will know how they will expect interpreters to contribute to meeting a client’s needs.

(Jonathan Downie)

You need to practice as much as possible, because practice makes perfect, and you can only learn by doing.

(Pedro Luís Queirós Duarte)

A circular economy of good interpreters, where nothing is wasted because the student becomes the trainer and helps new students.

(Pedro Luís Queirós Duarte)

Written interpreting? Wow! That will kick the legs out from under the current paradigm.

(Barry S. Olsen)

The only people not happy with the prospect of interpreters doing live subtitling is… interpreters.

(Jonathan Downie)

If we don’t know where we come from, we can hardly know where we’re going.

(Jesús Baigorri Jalón)

Many technological controversies have brought about controversies.

(Jesús Baigorri Jalón)

Respeaking technology = live subtitling, involves listening & reformulating, then a software transcribes the output in written form. Technology engages the same area of the brain as simultaneous interpreting. Could  “written interpreting” be possible? Carlo Eugeni thinks so.

(Sylvie Nossereau)

The EU institutions work with 24 official languages, which means there are more than 500 language combinations. Interpreters play a key role contributing to peace and understanding.

(Juan Carlos Jiménez)

Multilingualism in Canada dates back to the Constitution Act of 1867, when French and English were both allowed and promoted in the Canadian Parliament. However, the shift from symbolic bilingualism to true bilingualism came 100 years later, with the introduction of simultaneous interpreting in the Canadian House of Commons.

(Matthew Ball)

Please note that the “term is International Sign, rather than International Sign Language or International Signs, this indicates that IS does not have full linguistic status but is a translanguaging practice”.

(Maya de Wit)

As interpreters, we have a bit of an identity crisis, because we’re always in the background.

(Uroš Peterc)

The European Parliament tested remote interpreting in November 2003 – the booths for the ten new member states hadn’t been built yet!

(Josh Goldsmith)

We have become completely anonymous non-beings, just voices… We are not just voices. We are part of the interaction.

(Barry S. Olsen)

Jesús Baigorri argues that younger people may be more accustomed to screens and more likely to adopt remote interpreting – but interestingly enough, in my research, colleagues adopting technologies tend to have many years of experience.

(Josh Goldsmith)

Alienation is the interpreter’s main fear – proximity is important in interpreting.

(Uroš Peterc)

The connection and the ability to bring people together give us sense of satisfaction and bring many people into the profession… We are not just voices.

(Barry S. Olsen)

As Professor Olsen says, interpreters are not just voices — remote interpretation should not further anonymise the people behind the booth (or screen).

(Interprefy)

We are still using a map of the brain created 100 years ago. 1993 was the first time a researcher recorded the brain activity of someone interpreting. A lot has been achieved since then, especially in terms of computer analysis, technique and sample size.

(Alexis Hervais-Adelman)

Interpreters’ brains, compared to those of non-interpreter bilinguals, change their configuration as a function of interpreting.

(Alexis Hervais-Adelman)

Interpreting is harder than “just” shadowing, as more brain areas are activated during the task due to the bilingual nature of the exercise.

(Alexis Hervais-Adelman)

Expertise modifies several areas of the brain. This is also true for interpreting, where processing capacity and control of attention seem to develop over time.

(Alexis Hervais-Adelman)

The right caudate nucleus changes its activity due to interpreter training, just as does for expert musicians and golfers.

(Alexis Hervais-Adelman)

With expertise, interpreters’ brains free up new resources to refine performance, analogous to patterns in professional golfers, chess players, and musicians.

(Alexis Hervais-Adelman)

“Inside the skull of every one of us, there is something like a brain of a crocodile” (Carl Sagan). Apparently, this primal brain is more activated than expected when interpreting.

(Alexis Hervais-Adelman)

When looking at brain maps recorded when participants interpret, we notice that most brain areas are activated. Being an interpreter is therefore much more than being an expert in languages, it is about being an expert in control.

(Alexis Hervais-Adelman)

Thanks to interpreting, our brains change. Our skills in other domains – like memory and attention – improve.

(Alexis Hervais-Adelman)

Being an interpreter is more than being an expert in language, it means being an expert in control. Interpreting is a task “involving all of the brain’s resources”. Interpreters’ brains are beautiful!

(Alexis Hervais-Adelman)

Neuroscientists gathered at the #Conf1nt100 at @FTI_UNIGE to explain why they are so interested in simultaneous interpreting: “it is the upper end of the language control spectrum: extreme language control”.

(Marzia Sebastiani)

German A interpreters working into a B language use anticipation more often than other A languages (but also make more mistakes when anticipating).

(Franz Pöchhacker)

Anticipation: a strategy used my many interpreters when they rely on context or world knowledge to produce the target language equivalent before it is uttered.

(Franz Pöchhacker)

Retour anticipation only helps if you have the expressive skills in your B language.

(Franz Poechhacker)

In a study, German A participants working into an English B had a significantly higher instance of successful anticipation than English natives working in the same direction, but only if they have adequate expressive skills in the target language.

(Franz Poechhacker)

Prediction helps us comprehend more rapidly. (…) So it stands to reason interpreters make predictions to understand the speaker’s message more quickly.

(Rhona Amos)

Interpreters predicted target words earlier than translators.

(Rhona Amos)

In multilinguals, all languages are activated at the same time. Co-activation works like a search engine – and sometimes, there are just too many tabs open!

(Laura Keller)

Our eyes may not reveal all of the things that can be revealed about this very complicated task of simultaneous interpreting.

(Laura Keller)

Becoming an interpreter is a great way of increasing your vocabulary.

(Laura Babcock)

How do interpreters manage their cognitive load?

– They anticipate

– They improve their memory, and

– They increase their lexical access

Insights from Laura Babcock

(Rachel Farmer)

Interpreters consider that being able to see the speaker is absolutely crucial to understand the speaker, but with the introduction of remote interpreting, this principle is often questioned.

(Eléonore Arbona)

Interpreters perceive gestures to be very important to understand the speaker’s meaning.

(Eléonore Arbona)

Few studies tackle the link between quality in interpreting and the ability to see the speaker. This means that we do not have any scientific proof to claim that seeing the speaker is necessary for interpreting.

(Eléonore Arbona)

I often gesture while interpreting in the booth and have seen other Southern European colleagues do so too. I definitely feel like I find the right words more easily.

(Nuria Campoy)

The décalage is the same for men and women, but it’s not the same for fast and slow speakers.

(Camille Collard)

Experimental researchers and corpus researchers should come together and complement one another to improve understanding of interpreting.

(Camille Collard)

Joindre le geste à la parole aide-t-il vraiment les interprètes à exercer leur métier? Cela reste à démontrer mais ça ne veut pas dire que ce n’est pas un plus en cabine.

(Eléonore Arbona)

Quality is almost always defined negatively: errors, disfluencies, etc. It is never defined positively in interpreting studies – only as what you shouldn’t do.

(Bart Defrancq)

We need to understand situational factors underpinning interpreter decisions better. That will be the added value of a human interpreter, compared to artificial intelligence.

(Ebru Diriker)

We still lack research on retour interpreting. Indeed, we know that interpreting into a B language is cognitively different than interpreting into a A language, but current cognitive models do not make this distinction.

(Bart Defrancq)

The brain centres interpreters use when working into their A language are not the same as the ones used when working in retour which should have implications for interpreting training.

(Maha El-Metwally)

Les aires du cerveau qui sont recrutées pour interpréter vers la langue B (retour) sont différentes des aires activées pendant l’interprétation vers la langue A.

(Bart Defrancq cite les recherches d’Alfonso García)

Ne serait-il pas dangereux de remettre le niveau de qualité attendue des interprètes dans les mains des utilisateurs?

(Toufic Abichaker)

Researchers can speak truth to power.

(Kilian G. Seeber)

On parle beaucoup de la qualité de l’interprétation, “mais est-ce qu’on mesure aussi la qualité de l’orateur?”

(Bart Defrancq)

I am very much a made, not born interpreter.

(Jacolyn Harmer)

English is everywhere, spoken by both native and non-native speakers of English. Speaking Globish creates another kind of identity and English now is a sine qua non for interpretation students.

(Jacolyn Harmer)

Nuremberg was a live curriculum lab to identify key skills and subskills of simultaneous interpreting.

(Jacolyn Harmer)

Alienation is the interpreter’s main fear.

(Uros Peterc)

Adoption of technology is the newest change in the interpreting classroom.

(Jacolyn Harmer)

Tomorrow’s human interpreters will engage in human-machine interaction thanks to artificial intelligence designed to support the human interpreter.

(Jacolyn Harmer)

There are no shortcuts.

(Jacolyn Harmer)

Interpreter training can be supported by research and new technology.

(Jacolyn Harmer)

Consec and sim in courtrooms, sometimes remote. Same for medical interpreters. Cinderella has long since joined her sisters at the ball.

(Jacolyn Harmer)

Why do we continue doing consecutive, when we could do sim-consec?

(Marie Diur)

Interpreters won’t be replaced by technology but they will be replaced by interpreters who use technology.

(Marie Diur and Lucía Ruiz Rosendo)

Not all natives have an A language.

(Nathalie Loiseau)

Interpreters will not be replaced by technology, but interpreters using technology will replace those who don’t use it.

(Marie Diur)

Universities need to go beyond teaching the technologies of today and teach the technologies of tomorrow: Deep learning, neural networks, artificial intelligence, and more.

(Claudio Fantinuoli)

Someday interpreters will be confronted with this AI interpreting. It’s not for tomorrow yet, but the day after tomorrow.

(Claudio Fantinuoli)

How help novice interpreters making the leap from graduation to a successful career. In a way it is a mission impossible. Almost impossible to deliver turnkey interpreters ready for the booth as from day 1.

(Jacolyn Harmer)

Given low accreditation rates, we are under an obligation to make sure our future graduates are specialists, not generalists.

(Jacolyn Harmer)

AI tech is invading the field of interpreters. Make it a valuable helper or it might turn into your worst competitor! We need to develop informed knowledge on deep learning and neural networks.

(Claudio Fantinuoli)

You can’t prepare students for machine interpreting. You can, however, make them aware of what it is. We will arrive at a stage where we will see a combination of human and machine interpreting. We will need trained interpreters to support clients.

(Claudio Fantinuoli)

It is insufficient to say: interpreting is so complex, a machine cannot do it. We live in a knowledge society and our profession needs knowledge about this topic too. This is a tough one for us, I know. At university we need broader approach than the institutions.

(Claudio Fantinuoli)

AI interpreting could be an aid in certain circumstances and actually expand the use of interpretation. Do we want access to languages and communication to be elitist or accessible to all?

(Sarah Hickey)

Don’t call speech-to-speech translation “machine interpretation.” It isn’t. AI does not interpret language, it crunches data with algorithms and produces results, the interpretation of which is left entirely up to the user.

(Barry S. Olsen)

Could one day technologies (speech-to-text + text-to-text + voice synthesizers) combine to produce automatic interpreting? Machine translation is here, how long till machine interpreters? We need to keep an eye on the developments and stay up to date.

(Sergei Chernov)

Multilingualism is part of our DNA. Multilingualism is not about officials or politicians speaking many languages but about all citizens being able to use their own language and we EU interpreters will make it understandable to all others!

(Hernandez-Saseta)

We as interpreters see machine/AI interpreting as a threat, society might well see it as an opportunity. It is coming anyway and it will influence client expectations. This is about much more than conference interpreting, about other uses too.

(Claudio Fantinuoli)

C’est quoi le multilinguisme ? C’est pouvoir s’exprimer dans sa langue maternelle et être interprété par des interprètes (ce n’est pas baragouiner dans plusieurs langues).

(Javier Hernandez-Saseta)

Thank God for those who are mad who protect us from those who are too wise.

(Christopher Thiéry)

Everything that can happen with technology doesn’t.

(Christopher Thiéry)

The future of interpreting at European Parliament interpreters may include:

– Augmented reality

– Voice-activated terminology searches and live transcription

– Captioning of live debates at meetings

(A. Walter Drop)

Our interpreters will require the right skills to do their job well in a changing environment. Our most immediate task is to help interpreters adapt to the changes we see.

(A. Walter Drop)

Let’s be controversial. Let’s be troublesome.

(Troblesome Terps)

Whenever there has been a significant change in society, interpreters have been there.

(Barry S. Olsen)

Interdisciplinarity is an act of improvisation. I can’t think of any better preparation for interpreting than madness and improvisation.

(Interpreter History)

Remote is already a reality in the private market. And it works. It allows language access. There is a lot of useful information out there.

(Barry S. Olsen)

It is not the only role – or the primary role – of academic research to produce only the findings that are in the interest of the profession. Academic research might go against the interests of the profession or what the profession wants to hear.

(Carmen Delgado)

L’apprentissage de la consécutive reste important aujourd’hui, même si on est peu ou pas amené à la pratiquer professionnellement: elle sert à l’interprète à analyser le discours.

(Marie Muttilainen)

Sometimes we use the wrong technology just because we feel the pressure. Instead, we need to sit in the driver’s seat. Otherwise, it will be too late, and we’ll see a tsunami – whether we like it or not, and whether the technology is ready or not.

(Claudio Fantinuoli)

Attention à la tendance de vouloir rédiger des textes de manière à ce qu’ils soient facilement traduis par des machines. Les orateurs doivent avoir la liberté de s’exprimer comme ils le veulent.

(Marie Muttilainen)

If you make a mistake in a two-day conference, nobody notices. If you make a mistake in a 15-minute speech, game over.

(Uroš Peterc)

I’m quite optimistic about the future of conference interpreting. But if you have a tsunami, you have an alarm. You know something is happening, and you can react and prepare.

(Claudio Fantinuoli)

How can an employer judge an interpreter who is working behind a screen and who is unknown to them in real life? How can employers assess the reputation of an interpreter working remotely?

(Marklen Konurbaev)

My job as Chief Intepreter is to sell excellence.

(Marie Diur)

There’s no point in doing bad interpreting – we might as well not interpret at all.

(Alexander C. Gansmeier)

We mustn’t be driven by technology. We have to drive technology.

(Claudio Fantinuoli)

It’s all about change, all the time. Technology is helpful but also a disruptor, which is good. And remember that conference interpreting is not interpretation, it is a very specific job.

(Uroš Peterc)

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