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Kilian G Seeber
FTI, Faculty for Translation and Interpreting, University of Geneva
Vol. 3 No. 2 (2017), Articles, pages 73-90
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The workplace of simultaneous conference interpreters appears to have changed relatively little since early veterans provided the first simultaneous interpreting service during the inter-war and post-war period. On the face of it, the task, too, appears to have remained the same, as simultaneous interpreters continue to relay spoken discourse from one language into another language in real time. A closer analysis of the task and its inherent constraints, however, reveals a different picture: in fact, modern-day simultaneous interpreting at international organizations can be likened to the Olympics of the profession. In keeping with the Olympic motto, speakers speak ever faster, the likelihood that they will be reading a prepared presentation is ever higher and their accents are ever stronger.In this contribution I set out to explore these three parameters as the three principal challenges for simultaneous interpreters working at international organizations. The analysis will begin with an overview of these factors’ incidence across major international organizations as a backdrop against which to scrutinize them further.The discussion of the first parameter, speed, will begin with a critical discussion of the recommendations made by early practitioners and still upheld by many professional associations, as they appear to be in stark contrast with the professional reality encountered by interpreters working in international organizations.The examination of the second parameter, i.e., the read nature of discourse, highlights the unique features of this modality and outlines the repercussions it inevitably has on the product.The consideration of the third and final parameter, accent, starts with the isolation of accent as measurable and salient phonological feature of language to the exclusion of other features of what has become known in the literature as International English, Global English or English as Lingua Franca (ELF).For all three parameters a theoretical analysis of the phenomenon including their impact on the interpreting process are provided in an in-depth exploration of the cognitive processes involved in simultaneous conference interpreting at international organizations. 


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