Research studies

Simultaneous Interpreter as a Speaker


Prepared by the researcher  :  Ibrahim Talaat Ibrahim – AL-Iraqia University/College of Arts – Republic of Iraq – Researcher’s Curriculum Vitae

Democratic Arab Center

Journal of cultural linguistic and artistic studies : Twenty-first Issue – November 2021

A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin

Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
 ISSN  2625-8943

Journal of cultural linguistic and artistic studies

:To download the pdf version of the research papers, please visit the following link


Simultaneous interpreting is defined as the most difficult type of interpreting because the interpreter is required producing the same message in different language at the same time. This is why, it is a challenging task shouldered on the interpreter concerned. The current paper aims to know how far the Department of Translation Fourth Year Students / AL-Iraqia University/   are likely to make use of direct speech strategy through  interpreting  random speeches from English into Arabic and vice versa.

  1. Introduction

Simultaneous Interpreters face big challenges during the process of interpreting from English into Arabic and vice versa for a number of reasons, they are as follows:

1-Three tasks are shouldered on simultaneous interpreters: Receiving, analyzing and producing the same message in different languages at the same time.

2-Differences on the level of word-order:

-Arabic Language Word-order: Verb+Subject+Object

-English Language: word order: Subject+Verb+Object

3-Cultural Differences

All these problems will be discussed in the paper.

The ultimate goal of the study is to find out means of improving department of translation students in interpreting speakers’ speeches from Source Language (SL) into Target Language (TL) to know how far they are are confident, clear, not repetitive, embodying speaker’s character and grammatically correct in interpreting. Besides, the current paper is important for translation students, researchers in the field of translation, interpreting and any amateurs who want to be better interpreters. Besides, it shows strategies and the flaws that the interpreters make during interpreting. Moreover, the current study raises the following questions: How far Department of Translation students are confident, clear, not repetitive, embodying speaker’s character and grammatically correct in interpreting speaker’s character during the process of interpreting. In other words, are they likely to use direct speech strategy once they listen to the speech of the speaker from English into Arabic and vice versa?

  1. The History of the Interpreting Profession

Since the early beginning of interpreting studies (Rolfe 1911; Gehman 1914), Interpreters have attracted the attention of researchers whose names are as follows: Thieme, Hermann and Glässer (1956) highlighted this period and beyond. Kurz (1985a, 1985b, 1986) focused on the Ancient Era of Egypt due to the fact that an interpreter first image is dated at Horemheb’s tomb (1330 BC), and Ancient Rome. Wiotte-Franz (2001) showed a comprehensive monograph with regard to interpreters in antiquity (6th century BC to 6th century AD) in which she referred to the participation of interpreters in the geopolitical relations in this era, on interpreters’ activities in the areas mentioned as follows:  (courts, multilingual armies, administration, trade, diplomacy, religion), and on interpreters’ images (their names where available, social origins, training, and professional practice)  Throughout the course history, references with reference to interpreting – an essentially oral profession – are given in writing.

Herodotus is defined as (484–425 BC) a symbolic father of (Western) history. Herodotus’ journey to Egypt in the 5th century BC represents a tourist trip to a “strange” place in our days, where guides and interpreters are badly required to facilitate the whole journey.

The lines presented below, are taken from Herodotus’ account at one of the pyramids, to shed lights on how historical sources are built.

“On the pyramid it is declared in Egyptian writing how much was spent on radishes and onions and leeks for the workmen, and if I rightly remember that which the interpreter said in reading to me this inscription, a sum of one thousand six hundred talents of silver was spent …)Histories, II, 125, Macaulay and Lateiner’s translation; Herodotus 2004) “

(Mikkelson, Renée, 2015: 11)

The abovementioned quotation is an English translation of what Herodotus wrote in the Greek language from an original inscription in Egyptian – hieroglyphic or not we do not know – based on his recollection of the – oral – sight translation by the help of an anonymous interpreter while paying a visit to the pyramid. It sounds that interpreting aloud was a routine activity 2,500 years ago, as it is nowadays.

Elsewhere in his Histories, Herodotus cites that the Egyptian society was divided into seven classes and interpreters were among them, Since Pharaoh Psammetichus era organized the process of training Egyptian children as interpreters by placing them with Ionians and Carians to learn the Greek language. According to historians’ viewpoints, Herodotus’ words, in the translation presented above, is the historical piece of evidence available to all of us, however,  they are subject to various interpretations. The text we are concerned with is the result of many transfers: from written to oral and vice versa, embracing two languages, and then another translation from the Greek language into English. So the authorship is based on a collective process: a penman who wrote the inscription, probably assigned by someone else; an interpreter who transferred it aloud; Herodotus, who noted it down in Greek from memory; and the English translators. Manipulation might have effects at various levels, but what is important here is the role of Egyptian interpreter. We expect that the interpreter was honest on ethical level. In other words, he was not fabricating the contents of the inscription, which he would decode as a result of the fact that he was literate in Egyptian script, according to Herodotus words, or because he knew it by heart as a result of the training he received. “We might wonder whether his recital was the same routine explanation we hear from present-day guides the world over”.  As for the second point, we expect he was rendering it correctly: the vegetables – would there be similar species in Egypt and Greece or would his oral rendering be an adaptation, domestication for Herodotus’ ears? – And the amount of money, a process involving an immediate currency exchange, presuming it was not Herodotus who made the process of conversion. Schrader’s Spanish translation (Herodotus 1992 [1977]) reads ajos (“garlic”) instead of “leeks” – an amendment to local tastes? Discrepancies between translators are attributable to the original manuscript employed or to the challenge of finding the suitable equivalent words for plants, animals, etc., from other periods and places. What can be inferred is that the interpreter-informant acted in accordance with his decision making process as a gatekeeper, by selecting the message he transferred – would he read the inscription verbatim, with all the caveats attached to the concept of verbatim, or only parts thereof (Ibid: P.12).

  1. Types of Oral Translation:

There are different types of oral translation, the mostly used ones are explained below:

3.1. At Sight Translation

At Sight translation (ST) is defined as an oral process that aims at rendering a written text. When carting out the task in question, the at sight translator follows the procedures explained as follows: First, he reads a written text. Second, he processes the meaning as quickly as possible. Third, he orally transfers the meaning of the text while it is still being read. It is worth noting that At Sight translation embraces visual input of a written text and oral output of its meaning. In other words, it is a hybrid form of language mediation that represents both the translation and the interpretation processes partially (Agrifoglio, 2004: P.43).

3.2. Consecutive Interpreting

Consecutive interpreting (CI) is described as the process of interpreting the speech made by the speaker after he mentioned one or more ideas in the source language and after that pauses while the interpreter gives that pieces of information it is said that when making use of CI in the court setting, the duration of the source language can be a few seconds to several minutes. “Long consec” is defined as “an expression employed to describe consecutively interpreting a lengthy passage (over several minutes) or possibly an entire speech at a time, usually with the aid of note taking,” while “short consec” is described as an “expression refers to consecutively interpreting a short passage, possibly a word to a few sentences, with or without the aid of notes.” (Berk, Seligson, 1990: P.37).

3.3. Simultaneous Interpreting

Simultaneous interpreting first saw the light of day in the early 1920s when Edward Filene and A. Gordon-Finlay, employing proto-type telephone technology, developed equipment concerning the telephonic interpreting equipment. It was not until the fall of 1945, however, that simultaneous interpreting made its televised international debut during the Nuremberg Trials. So, Simultaneous Interpreting (SI) is defined as a process of interpreting speaker’s speech into the Target language (TL) while the speaker is making the speech in the Source Language (SL).

SI is considered to be the most difficult type of interpreting because the interpreter receives the pieces of information, analyses them and produces a speech in another language at the same time (Mikkelson, Renée, 2015: P.79).

  1. Memory

Simultaneous interpreting (SI) is a sophisticated task due to the fact that it is associated with several different cognitive tasks to be carried out more or less concurrently (Lambert, 2004). So, SI needs significant tasks with reference to language comprehension, they are mentioned as follows:  word recognition and semantic and syntactic decoding, to be done at once as language production-related tasks such as lexical selection and semantic and syntactic encoding. If we imagine of the human processor, the brain, as a capacity-limited system (see, for example, Baddeley, 1999), the effect on the interpreter’s working memory become crystal clear. As long as the amount of sensory information that can be processed and stored is limited, tasks that could be effortless when performed individually start competing for the same processing resources when performed concurrently, slowing them down and making them less robust. The interpreters’ capability of carrying out the simultaneous interpreting task was explained by what was assumed intuitively to be their good (working) memory (Herbert, 1952; Seleskovitch, 1968). However, several experiments have been carried out to draw a comparison between the memory capacity of interpreters to that of non-interpreters, with largely inconclusive and partially contradictory results. It is imaginable and the complex task of simultaneous interpreting is possible not because of an increased memory capacity, but rather because some of the information processing in the brain has been automated. This automation would render these processes subconscious and less constrained by the brain’s capacity limits (Styles, 1997). This means, practice, which has been shown to make almost perfect time sharing of simultaneous tasks possible (Schumacher et al., 2001; Lambert, 2004), might lead to the automation of certain processes rather than to an increase in memory capacity.

  1. Challenges of Interpreting

The researcher summarized the main challenges that any simultaneous interpreter might come across depending on his experience in teaching Simultaneous Interpreting Subject for fourth grade students. They are explained in the following points:

5.1. Three in one Task

The tasks are as follows:

  • Receiving the pieces of information from speaker with the employment of input channels: (ears and sometimes eyes).
  • Processing the pieces of information that the interpreter receives from the speaker appropriately by selecting the appropriate equivalent and managing the word-order in the target language.
  • Producing an acceptable interpreting by following the points mentioned above and paying attention to speaker’s intonation and style.
    • Word Order

The English word order is different from the Arabic one. Therefore, the interpreter in question should pay attention to this challenge because the English sentence always starts with a noun while the Arabic one starts with a verb. It is worth mentioning that the English word order is (Subject+Verb+Object) and Arabic is (Verb+Subject+Object).

5.3. Cultural Differences

The cultural differences constitute big challenges for simultaneous interpreters, they are of different types: such as social, religious, environmental topics as well.

  1. Strategies of Interpreting

The researcher prepared the following strategies so as to be the alphabet of simultaneous interpreting, they are presented below:

  • Paying attention to the speaker’s voice: the interpreter has to interpret into the target language with the employment of the same level of speaker’s voice so as not to cause any difference.
  • The interpreter has to embody the speaker’s character once he starts interpreting. In other words, he must never resort to the third person pronoun. For example when the speaker says I can make a difference in your life: the interpreter should not say: ((هويستطيع ان يحدث التغيير في حياتك inappropriate product (استطيع احداث التغيير في حياتك) appropriate product.
  • The interpreter has to resort to abbreviations so as to take advantage of time and keep pace with the speaker.
  • He has to be straight forward when it comes to the speaker’s employment of more than one language including interpreter’s mother tongue during his speech. It means that the interpreter should not use two languages. Instead he has to retain to the language of interpretation in order not to let the audience get bewildered.
  • The interpreter has to make use of semantic translation method: rendering meanings of words from one language into another instead of communicative method: transferring the meaning and sense of word from source language into target language if the speaker mentions an idiom or a joke that needs in-depth understanding so as to be on the safe side.
  • If the interpreter fails interpreting certain expression in the speech of the speaker, it is better for him skipping it than interpreting something he is not sure of it.
  • The interpreter should focus on interpretation and not to be influenced by his personal feeling and emotion. In other words, he has to be impartial with his interpretation and even the speech that is against his ideologies.
  • The Interpreter must get benefit from the pauses of the speaker in his speech to buy time.
  • The Interpreter has to render the meaning of one synonymous expression instead of two to for reasons of economy and time.
  1. The Embodiment of Speaker’s Character on the levels of Speech, intonation and style.

The researcher chose forty fourth grade students/ Department of Translation/ College of Arts/ AL-Iraqia University and he selected two videos in English to be the case study of the current research:

4.1. Anglina Jolie- UNHCR Special Envoy (02:05 Minutes) Retrieved on Thursday 17-1-2019

  • كلمة وزير التعليم العالي بمناسبة العام الدراسي الجديد للجامعات 2018 \2019 (02: 37 Minutes) Retrieved on Thursday 17-1-2019

The orientation of the simultaneous interpreting is to be from English into Arabic and Vice Versa.

  1. Methods of Simultaneous Interpreting

The researcher created two methods of interpreting speakers’ speeches from Source Language (SL) into Target Language (TL) so as to know how far fourth year students are confident, clear, not repetitive, embodying speaker’s character and grammatical in interpreting speakers’ characters from (SL) into (TL), they are as follows:

9.1. Direct Interpreting Method (DIM):

It is about employing the entire strategies mentioned (see 3. above) with the employment of Speakers’ (pronoun I).

9.2. Indirect Interpreting Method (IIM)

It is concerned with resorting to some strategies highlighted (see 3. above) with the use of the third person singular pronouns (He, She) instead of (I).

  1. Model of Analysis

The researcher created an eclectic model for the analysis of the Students’ interpreting. It is highlighted below

  1. Simultaneous Interpreting Results

The researcher examined forty students in Department of Translation/ College of Arts/ AL-Iraqia University to know how far  fourth year students are able to interpret the two speeches from English into Arabic and vice versa successfully. It is worth noting that all fourth year students were given the strategies of simultaneous of interpreting in many lectures then, they were examined by the researcher to see their results (see 3. above). Besides, the results of research are divided into two main parts: (English into Arabic) while the second one is dedicated to (Arabic into English). Moreover, each main part is further sub-divided into five sub-parts that are concerned with the followings:

 Confidence: Are students confident enough in interpreting speeches into the target language?

Clearance: Are they clear in their voices clear in interpreting from SL into TL and vice versa?

No Repetition: Are fourth year students repetitive or not in using equivalent terms during interpretation?

Embodiment: Are they embodying speakers’ characters during interpretation?

Grammar: Are they grammatical in interpreting the speeches from English into Arabic and vice versa simultaneously?

Furthermore, the researcher made use of an eclectic model of analysis (see 6. above) that is of two main methods direct and indirect interpreting methods (see 5. above) so as to complete examining fourth year students.

The results of simultaneous interpreting are highlighted in the table below

Arabic into English English into Arabic Student No.
Confidence Clearance No Repetition Embodiment Grammar Confidence Clearance No


Embodiment Grammar
S S S S S S S S S S 1
F F F S F S S S S F 2
S S F S F S F S S S 3
S S S S S S S S S S 4
S F S F S S S S S S 5
F F F S F S S S S S 6
S S S S S S S S S S 7
S S S S S S F S S S 8
S F S S S S S F S S 9
S S S F F S F F S F 10
S F F S F S S S F S 11
S S S S F F S F S S 12
S F F F F S S S S S 13
S F S S F S S S F F 14
F F S S F S S S S F 15
S S S S F S S S S S 16
S S S S S S S S S S 17
F F F F F S S S S F 18
F F F S S S S S S F 19
F F F F F S S S S S 20
S S S S F S S S S S 21
S S S S S S S S S S 22
S S S S S S S S S S 23
S S S S S S S S S S 24
S S S S S S S F S S 25
F S F F F S F S S F 26
F S F F F S S S S S 27
S S S S S S S S S S 28
S S F S S S S S S S 29
F F F F F S S S S S 30
S S S S F S F S S S 31
S S S S S S S S S S 32
S S S S S S S S S S 33
S S S S S S F S S S 34
S S S S S S F S S S 35
S S S S S S S S S S 36
S S S S S S S S S S 37
S F S S F S S F F S 38
S S S S S S S S S S 39
S S S S S S S S S S 40
77.5 22.5 67.5 32.5 70 30 80 20 57.5 42.5 97.5








87.5 12.5 92.5








Total Rates

of Success

(S) and

Failure (F)



The researcher has found out the following conclusion, they are presented below:

Most of fourth year students/ Department of Translation/ College of Arts/ AL-Iraqia University employed direct interpreting method in interpreting the two speeches.

Fourth year students interpreted Angelina Jolie’s speech (English into Arabic Orientation) better than interpreting Iraqi Minister of Higher Education one (Arabic into English Orientation) to prove the abovementioned results, the rates are mentioned as follows:

As for English into Arabic orientation, students followed grammatical rules in interpreting the speech in question at a rate of 82.5%. Besides, they embodied speaker’s character by 92.5 %. Moreover, they were successful in avoiding repetitive expressions in the target language at a rate of 87.5 %. Furthermore, their voices were crystal clear in interpretation by 82.5 %. And they were confident at a rate of 97.5 %.

Speaking of Arabic into English orientation, fourth year students were successful in making use of correct rules of grammar in interpreting into target language by 57.5 %. It is worth noting that they embodied speaker’s character at a rate of 80 %. Besides, they avoided repetition by 70 %. Furthermore, they were clear in their interpreting at a rate of 67.5 %. Moreover, students were confident in interpreting the speech in question by 77.5 %.


Agrifoglio, M. 2004. Sight translation and interpreting: A comparative analysis of constraints and failures. Interpreting, 6 (1), pp. 43–67

Baddeley A (1999) Essentials of human memory. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

Berk, Seligson, S.1990. The bilingual courtroom: Court interpreters in the judicial process. Chicago: University Chicago Press.

Lambert S (2004) Shared attention during sight translation, sight interpretation and simultaneous interpretation. Meta 49(2), 294–306.

 Mikkelson, Holly and Renée Jourdenais (2015). The Routledge Handbook of Interpreting. London: Routledge.

Seleskovitch D (1968) Interpreting for international conferences: Problems of language and communication. Washington: Pen and Booth.

Styles E A (1997) The psychology of attention. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

Websites Retrieved on Thursday 17-1-2019 Retrieved on Thursday 17-1-2019

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