What do you know about translating and interpreting?

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In ancient Egypt language interpretation was already a regular occupation.

Yes. Several ancient Egyptian texts mention interpreters. The oldest known illustration of an interpreter at work is a detail of a stone relief in a tomb in Memphis. It shows the same person twice, looking in different directions. The corresponding text makes it clear that the figure depicts an interpreter. Another text mentions a chief or overseer of interpreters, which shows that the activity was organized professionnally. At the Pharaoh's court interpreters were needed for the reception of foreign ambassadors and supplicants. The Bible (Genesis 42, verse 23) also mentions an example of this.

Where does the word interpreter come from?

No, and unfortunately I have no idea what ancient Germanic tribes called interpreters and their occupation.

No, the most common ancient Greek word for interpreters and translators, a word used, for example, by the ancient historian Herodotus, is ἑρμηνεύς (hermeneus) and can also mean messenger or someone who interprets the meaning of a text, making it understandable.

Yes, the Latin analogue to Greek hermeneus is interpres.

No way. But just this is true for the German word Dolmetscher, which is derived from a Turkic root as in Turkish dilmaç (mediator; today used as a given name). Martin Luther already used the word Dolmetschen—however, not for oral interpreting but for written translating. Russian also has an old word толмач (tolmach).

Ancient translations have helped specialists decipher other documents written in unfamiliar languages and scripts.

Yes, especially bi- and trilingual inscriptions. The Rosetta Stone is a famous example. It has the same text in Greek and in two Egyptian scripts. With its help scientists succeeded in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Who were dragomans?

Yes, the word dragoman has semitic, i.e. Hebrew/Arabic roots (cf. Hebrew targum), but it was soon to be found in Turkic and Persian languages, too, as well as in Europe. Dragomans played an important role in negotiations, especially when representants of European countries visited the Osmanic Empire.

Modern practice

Anyone who has a perfect command of two languages makes a good translator and interpreter.

No. Although language skills are most important, you need to train a number of other skills to be a good translator and interpreter. For interpreting you need a good short-term memory or some sort of shorthand writing skills or both, but also the ability not to draw attention to your person. In addition to that, you always have to quickly think of an adequate term. When working on written translations you have more time for thought and research, but the demands to the quality of the text are higher, too. In order to meet them you need background knowledge about the languages and the ability to do efficient research.

For professional consecutive interpreting it is recommended to have ...

It depends on the premises and the number of participants whether a microphone is needed or not. Interpreting one-to-one conversations hardly ever requires a microphone.

Yes, the oldschool paper thing, that's right—if only the conversation situation makes it possible. Even interpreters who do not use any kind of shorthand find it helpful to write down numbers or unfamiliar terms.

No, a booth is for simultaneous interpreting, not consecutive.

Even in the 21th century and even in Germany there were situations in which children were used as interpreters.

Yes, this happened in 2015/16 when many refugees from Syria came to Germany. It was impossible to find enough professional interpreters or adult volunteers speaking Arabic and German. Of course, the children could convey only rather simple content, but still children tend to spend much more time interacting with a new language environment and thus learn the language much quicker than adults.

In order to have a two-hour event interpreted simultaneously, I need ...

No! Simultaneous interpreting requires the utmost concentration and can be done only about 15-20 minutes in a row, 30 at the most. After that the interpreter has to be relieved. Consecutive interpreting is somewhat less stressful, but even so, intense negotiations or difficult professional talks make a break necessary after about 20 minutes, more relaxed conversations may be carried on for 30 minutes. A speech that requires only one-way interpreting may go on for up to 45 minutes. After that the interpreter needs a break. So if there is a break in the middle, a single consecutive interpreter can handle a classical 90-minute lecture. In addition, with consecutive interpreting the content gets through to the listeners significantly better. However, you have to consider the fact that it takes up time so you can convey less content in the first place.

Yes, the two interpreters relieve each other in the booth when needed.

No, they always work in pairs in the booth. At longer events that take up a full day or several days, several pairs are working.

How many official languages does the EU have (in 2021)?

No, that was in 1995.

Yes: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish. You can find this information on the EU page on EU languages.

No, though the EU has 27 members, four of them—Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria and Cyprus—did not add any new official languages. On the other hand, English as a second official language of Ireland and Malta remains one of the official languages of the EU even after the United Kingdom has left the EU.

No, not even all official languages of its members. Luxembourgish, the national language of Luxembourg, is not used by the EU as German and French are also administrative languages in Luxembourg. In addition to that, some countries have official regional or minority languages, such as Faeroese and Greenlandic in Denmark, West Frisian and Papiamento in the Netherlands (the latter on an island belonging to the Antilles in the Caribbean); Low German, North Frisian, Saterland Frisian, Upper Sorbian, Lower Sorbian and Sinte Romani in Germany; Ladin in Italy, Aragonese, Aranese, Asturian, Basque, Galician and Catalan in Spain, Finnish, Meänkieli, Saami as well as Yiddish and Romani in Sweden. The sign languages of many countries also have the status of official minority languages. And, of course, EU citizens and non-citizens might well speak more languages while being on the territory of the EU. In the Baltic countries there is, for example, a strong Russian-speaking minority. Native speakers of different Baltic languages also often converse with each other in Russian.

Whispered interpretation or chuchotage always is ...

Yes! Chuchotage is an (inferior) variant of simultaneous interpretation. It takes place when there is no booth and there is only one person, two at the most, who need(s) interpretation. The interpreter is in the same room in which the event takes place, sitting close to the listener, and tells him or her in a low voice what is going on. A larger group of people can receive interpreting without a booth if the interpreter is at least wearing a special headset and the listeners have the corresponding headphones.

No. In case the listener ever gets the opportunity to talk, his or her words will be interpreted consecutively at full volume.

If the organiser and the interpreter agree on it, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with chuchotage. What is unprofessional and in some cases explicitly forbidden is another kind of whispering: during liaison interpreting an interpreter should never talk to one partner without letting the other side know the contents.

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