Online Simultaneous Interpreting Practicum for Graduate School's Japanese-English Applied Interpretation and Translation Program

January 13, 2021

This year, for the first time, a simultaneous interpretation practicum was held online as part of the "Applied Interpretation and Translation Studies 2" course of the Graduate School of Global Studies' Japanese-English Applied Interpretation and Translation Program. Simultaneous interpretation was practiced in a collaborative class with undergraduate students, with the undergraduate students acting as the audience and the graduate students interpreting the presentations and speech materials given by the undergraduate students.
The following is a report by Pham Thu Thuy and Yuka Kurita (both second year students of the Graduate School of Global Studies, Japanese-English Applied Interpretation and Translation Program).

Simultaneous Interpretation Practicum 1: Collaborative Class with the “Interpretation and Translation Seminar”

Ms. Pham Thu Thuy

On Monday, November 2, 2020, we held a collaborative class for simultaneous interpretation practice through Zoom. Graduate students provided simultaneous interpretation for presentations given by third-year undergraduate students in the Interpretation and Translation Seminar. This was the first time for us to practice simultaneous interpretation online. The presentations were about translation and interpretation, and were beneficial to both graduate and undergraduate students. Moreover, this exercise was very meaningful for each of us.

Since I had never experienced online simultaneous interpretation before, I noticed a few things through this experience.
First of all, I realized how important it is to prepare in advance. I was taught this in my daily classes, and it is true that it is nearly impossible to interpret without preparation, no matter how good your language skills are. Without proper preparation and daily study, it is impossible to translate accurately. Since this exercise was designed to simulate a real-life situation, unlike the usual interpreting practices in class, I felt very nervous, but I realized that I can interpret with confidence as long as I am prepared enough.
I also became aware of the need to be mindful that unexpected things may happen during the session. For example, it may be difficult to hear what the speaker is saying due to audio trouble, or it may be necessary to respond instantly during a Q&A session.
It is also important to be able to stay focused until the entire interpretation is finished. This is something that I am not usually aware of, and I found myself realizing it through this real-life experience. It may seem trivial, but I feel that this is where the true ability of an interpreter lies.

After the class, we reflected on the exercise, and through discussions, we identified some points that we need to be aware of as well as some points that need to be improved.
The first point is that all speakers have their own unique way of talking. Some speak slowly out of concern for the interpreter, while others speak quickly. Interpreters are expected to be able to deal with speakers of all kinds. It made me realize that I should practice interpreting with speakers of different styles of speech so that I can deal with them in real-life situations.
Secondly, we noted the importance of being able to summarize the content in a concise and accurate manner. If you translate everything, the amount of information increases, which can be a burden to the person listening to you. I realized that the only way to learn what to translate and what to leave out is by practicing and gaining experience.
Lastly, simultaneous interpretation is a real-time process, so no matter how much preparation is done, it is not uncommon for unforeseen circumstances to occur, as I mentioned earlier. When this happens, I learned that the best thing an interpreter can do is to stay calm. Even though it is difficult to improve one's mental capacity, I realized that I have become mentally stronger to some extent through this training.
This year, the spread of COVID-19 has brought about major changes to the world of simultaneous interpretation. Instead of going to a venue, interpretation is now being done online, and it is said that this will probably continue in the future. I am glad that I was able to experience practical simultaneous interpretation by participating in this training. I understood that it will be necessary in the future to utilize the skills and knowledge I have learned in class and to have a good understanding of the new forms of simultaneous interpretation in line with the changing times.

Simultaneous Interpretation Practicum 2: Collaborative Session with the “Introduction to Interpreting” Class

Ms. Yuka Kurita

On Friday, December 11, 2020, a practical simultaneous interpretation session was held as part of the online "Introduction to Interpreting" class. The undergraduate students in the class were working on a translation assignment based on a speech manuscript given to them beforehand. In this class, two graduate students actually interpreted this speech simultaneously. Although this was an online exercise, the audience was larger than in the previous sessions, so I approached it with even more concentration.

There were two main things I learned through this training.
The first is about how to speak as an interpreter. The audience can only listen to your interpretations, and information must be conveyed only through your voice. For this reason, it is necessary to speak more consciously and clearly than usual. For example, if the pronunciation or accent of a word is ambiguous or incorrect, it may not be understood correctly by the listener. This is why I tried to be conscious of how I was speaking when interpreting. As a result, I received many comments from the students about the content of my interpretation, which made me realize that my translation was conveyed properly. This was something that I would not have realized if the audience had not been present.
The second point is the need to be flexible and adaptable to unforeseen circumstances. As I felt in the previous training, online interpreting is subject to the same problems as on-site interpreting, such as issues with the connection and audio. For example, this time I encountered a problem where the audio was partially interrupted. However, I didn't panic and interpreted calmly based on the manuscript and video subtitles. By doing so, I was able to finish the interpretation without any major issues. In this way, I realized firsthand that in the field of interpretation, it is necessary to remain calm and composed when unexpected incidents occur.

After interpreting, there was time for comments and questions from the undergraduate students. By answering their questions, I felt that I was able to re-organize my thoughts about the various details of translation and what I pay attention to when interpreting. I was also honestly happy to receive comments such as "the interpretation was helpful" and "I gained a new perspective". Although I am still inexperienced in many areas, if there were even a few things that were helpful for the other students, it was a mutually meaningful learning experience.

It is not often that I have the opportunity to interpret in an environment with an audience, so this exercise was a very valuable experience. I was able to learn how to speak and prepare myself as an interpreter through this training, and I received many helpful comments. I will make the most of this experience and continue to work hard on my interpreting training.