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The art of conference interpreting

Jaqueline Klemke has been translating simultaneously for 20 years. Find out here what else she must be able to do besides multitasking.

Lauralie Mylène Schweiger, 25.04.2022
The conference interpreter Jaqueline Klemke
The conference interpreter Jaqueline Klemke © privat

She has one of the most stressful jobs in the world: Jaqueline Klemke translates simultaneously from German into English and vice versa. At international conferences on complex technical topics, the Frankfurt native sits highly concentrated in a booth and translates.

Ms Klemke, what is special about simultaneous translation?
You do everything at the same time. While I listen, process the content and speak in the target language myself, the speaker naturally continues to speak. In addition, every speaker expresses his or herself differently and structures thoughts differently. And these simultaneous processes take place in milliseconds.

What do you do when speakers lose the thread?
I can take a few rhetorical loops at one point or another without adding any information, or I can adjust my speaking tempo until the speaker regains the thread. There are, however, moments when the emotion is more important than the language, and then listeners should realize this. Overall, recipient-oriented interpreting is important: at a congress on grief counselling, we have to speak differently from how we do at a financial congress, where it's all about numbers, data, facts.

How do you deal with the different sentence structures of German and English?
You know the topic or the speaker well and adroitly anticipate what is being said. In German, however, it can happen that after the beginning of the sentence "Then we decided on the new project...", several subordinate clauses follow and the sentence then ends like this: "...resolved to scrub the project". So that in such a case we, the interpreters, don't go galloping off in a completely different direction, we have to break up the structure somewhat and form smaller sentences with sense units that we can process. In this way we gain time without distorting the message.

What do you enjoy more, translating from English into German or vice versa?
From German into English. The German language is very complex. This gives rise to many possible combinations. There are people who speak very figuratively. In addition, there is the personal style and sentence structure, which can vary greatly. "The language of poets and thinkers" - there are reasons why the German is called that. For me, it’s always fascinating.


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