full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Ewandro Magalhaes: How interpreters juggle two languages at once

Unscramble the Blue Letters

In 1956, during a dotamliipc repiecton in Moscow, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev told Western Bloc ambassadors, "My vas pokhoronim!" His interpreter rendered that into English as, "We will bury you!" This statement sent shcowevaks through the Western world, heightening the tension between the Soviet uonin and the US who were in the thick of the Cold War. Some believe this idnencit alone set East/West relations back a dadcee. As it tnrus out, Khrushchev's remark was translated a bit too literally. Given the context, his wdros should have been rendered as, "We will live to see you buried," meaning that Communism would otaslut Capitalism, a less threatening comment. Though the intended meaning was eventually clarified, the initial impact of Khrushchev's aeappnrt words put the world on a path that could have led to nuclear armageddon. So now, given the complexities of language and crluatul ehaxngce, how does this sort of thing not happen all the time? Much of the answer lies with the skill and training of interpreters to overcome language barriers. For most of history, interpretation was mainly done consecutively, with speakers and interpreters making psaeus to allow each other to speak. But after the advent of radio technology, a new simultaneous interpretations system was developed in the wake of wlord War II. In the simultaneous mode interpreters instantaneously translate a speaker's words into a microphone while he speaks. Without pauses, those in the audience can choose the language in which they want to follow. On the scrufae, it all looks seamless, but behind the scenes, human interpreters work iclnstasney to ensure every idea gets across as intended. And that is no easy task. It tkaes about two years of training for already fluent bilingual professionals to expand their vocabulary and master the skills necessary to become a coeernncfe intrrpeeetr. To get used to the uautnarnl task of speaking while they listen, students shadow speakers and raepet their every word exactly as heard in the same lggnuaae. In time, they begin to paraphrase what is said, making stylistic adjustments as they go. At some point, a second language is introduced. Practicing in this way creates new neural pathways in the interpreter's brain, and the constant effort of reformulation gradually becomes second nartue. Over time and through much hard work, the interpreter mstreas a vast array of tricks to keep up with speed, deal with challenging terminology, and handle a multitude of foreign accents. They may rseort to acronyms to shoertn long names, choose generic terms over specific, or refer to sields and other visual aides. They can even leave a term in the original language, while they search for the most accurate equivalent. itrerepnters are also skilled at keeping aplomb in the face of chaos. Remember, they have no cotornl over who is going to say what, or how articulate the speaker will suond. A curveball can be twrhon at any time. Also, they often perform to tunshados of people and in very intimidating settings, like the UN gnreael Assembly. To keep their emotions in check, they carefully prepare for an assignment, building glossaries in advance, reading voraciously about the subject matter, and reviewing previous talks on the topic. Finally, interpreters work in piars. While one colleague is busy translating incoming speeches in real time, the other gives support by locating documents, looking up words, and tracking down pertinent information. Because snuaoumliets irttntepiearon requires intense concentration, every 30 minutes, the pair switches roles. Success is heavily dednnpeet on skillful collaboration. Language is complex, and when abstract or nuanced cntpoecs get lost in translation, the ccuneosenqes may be catastrophic. As mrergaat Atwood famously noted, "War is what happens when language fails." Conference interpreters of all people are aware of that and work diligently behind the scenes to make sure it never does.

Open Cloze

In 1956, during a __________ _________ in Moscow, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev told Western Bloc ambassadors, "My vas pokhoronim!" His interpreter rendered that into English as, "We will bury you!" This statement sent __________ through the Western world, heightening the tension between the Soviet _____ and the US who were in the thick of the Cold War. Some believe this ________ alone set East/West relations back a ______. As it _____ out, Khrushchev's remark was translated a bit too literally. Given the context, his _____ should have been rendered as, "We will live to see you buried," meaning that Communism would _______ Capitalism, a less threatening comment. Though the intended meaning was eventually clarified, the initial impact of Khrushchev's ________ words put the world on a path that could have led to nuclear armageddon. So now, given the complexities of language and ________ ________, how does this sort of thing not happen all the time? Much of the answer lies with the skill and training of interpreters to overcome language barriers. For most of history, interpretation was mainly done consecutively, with speakers and interpreters making ______ to allow each other to speak. But after the advent of radio technology, a new simultaneous interpretations system was developed in the wake of _____ War II. In the simultaneous mode interpreters instantaneously translate a speaker's words into a microphone while he speaks. Without pauses, those in the audience can choose the language in which they want to follow. On the _______, it all looks seamless, but behind the scenes, human interpreters work ___________ to ensure every idea gets across as intended. And that is no easy task. It _____ about two years of training for already fluent bilingual professionals to expand their vocabulary and master the skills necessary to become a __________ ___________. To get used to the _________ task of speaking while they listen, students shadow speakers and ______ their every word exactly as heard in the same ________. In time, they begin to paraphrase what is said, making stylistic adjustments as they go. At some point, a second language is introduced. Practicing in this way creates new neural pathways in the interpreter's brain, and the constant effort of reformulation gradually becomes second ______. Over time and through much hard work, the interpreter _______ a vast array of tricks to keep up with speed, deal with challenging terminology, and handle a multitude of foreign accents. They may ______ to acronyms to _______ long names, choose generic terms over specific, or refer to ______ and other visual aides. They can even leave a term in the original language, while they search for the most accurate equivalent. ____________ are also skilled at keeping aplomb in the face of chaos. Remember, they have no _______ over who is going to say what, or how articulate the speaker will _____. A curveball can be ______ at any time. Also, they often perform to _________ of people and in very intimidating settings, like the UN _______ Assembly. To keep their emotions in check, they carefully prepare for an assignment, building glossaries in advance, reading voraciously about the subject matter, and reviewing previous talks on the topic. Finally, interpreters work in _____. While one colleague is busy translating incoming speeches in real time, the other gives support by locating documents, looking up words, and tracking down pertinent information. Because ____________ ______________ requires intense concentration, every 30 minutes, the pair switches roles. Success is heavily _________ on skillful collaboration. Language is complex, and when abstract or nuanced ________ get lost in translation, the ____________ may be catastrophic. As ________ Atwood famously noted, "War is what happens when language fails." Conference interpreters of all people are aware of that and work diligently behind the scenes to make sure it never does.

Solution

  1. general
  2. nature
  3. conference
  4. consequences
  5. exchange
  6. interpreter
  7. slides
  8. surface
  9. simultaneous
  10. words
  11. outlast
  12. thrown
  13. repeat
  14. incident
  15. resort
  16. shockwaves
  17. concepts
  18. dependent
  19. pairs
  20. turns
  21. apparent
  22. control
  23. sound
  24. takes
  25. pauses
  26. shorten
  27. masters
  28. interpretation
  29. unnatural
  30. margaret
  31. incessantly
  32. reception
  33. decade
  34. world
  35. union
  36. diplomatic
  37. interpreters
  38. language
  39. thousands
  40. cultural

Original Text

In 1956, during a diplomatic reception in Moscow, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev told Western Bloc ambassadors, "My vas pokhoronim!" His interpreter rendered that into English as, "We will bury you!" This statement sent shockwaves through the Western world, heightening the tension between the Soviet Union and the US who were in the thick of the Cold War. Some believe this incident alone set East/West relations back a decade. As it turns out, Khrushchev's remark was translated a bit too literally. Given the context, his words should have been rendered as, "We will live to see you buried," meaning that Communism would outlast Capitalism, a less threatening comment. Though the intended meaning was eventually clarified, the initial impact of Khrushchev's apparent words put the world on a path that could have led to nuclear armageddon. So now, given the complexities of language and cultural exchange, how does this sort of thing not happen all the time? Much of the answer lies with the skill and training of interpreters to overcome language barriers. For most of history, interpretation was mainly done consecutively, with speakers and interpreters making pauses to allow each other to speak. But after the advent of radio technology, a new simultaneous interpretations system was developed in the wake of World War II. In the simultaneous mode interpreters instantaneously translate a speaker's words into a microphone while he speaks. Without pauses, those in the audience can choose the language in which they want to follow. On the surface, it all looks seamless, but behind the scenes, human interpreters work incessantly to ensure every idea gets across as intended. And that is no easy task. It takes about two years of training for already fluent bilingual professionals to expand their vocabulary and master the skills necessary to become a conference interpreter. To get used to the unnatural task of speaking while they listen, students shadow speakers and repeat their every word exactly as heard in the same language. In time, they begin to paraphrase what is said, making stylistic adjustments as they go. At some point, a second language is introduced. Practicing in this way creates new neural pathways in the interpreter's brain, and the constant effort of reformulation gradually becomes second nature. Over time and through much hard work, the interpreter masters a vast array of tricks to keep up with speed, deal with challenging terminology, and handle a multitude of foreign accents. They may resort to acronyms to shorten long names, choose generic terms over specific, or refer to slides and other visual aides. They can even leave a term in the original language, while they search for the most accurate equivalent. Interpreters are also skilled at keeping aplomb in the face of chaos. Remember, they have no control over who is going to say what, or how articulate the speaker will sound. A curveball can be thrown at any time. Also, they often perform to thousands of people and in very intimidating settings, like the UN General Assembly. To keep their emotions in check, they carefully prepare for an assignment, building glossaries in advance, reading voraciously about the subject matter, and reviewing previous talks on the topic. Finally, interpreters work in pairs. While one colleague is busy translating incoming speeches in real time, the other gives support by locating documents, looking up words, and tracking down pertinent information. Because simultaneous interpretation requires intense concentration, every 30 minutes, the pair switches roles. Success is heavily dependent on skillful collaboration. Language is complex, and when abstract or nuanced concepts get lost in translation, the consequences may be catastrophic. As Margaret Atwood famously noted, "War is what happens when language fails." Conference interpreters of all people are aware of that and work diligently behind the scenes to make sure it never does.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
interpreters work 2

Important Words

  1. abstract
  2. accents
  3. accurate
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  5. adjustments
  6. advance
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  10. answer
  11. aplomb
  12. apparent
  13. armageddon
  14. array
  15. articulate
  16. assembly
  17. assignment
  18. atwood
  19. audience
  20. aware
  21. barriers
  22. bilingual
  23. bit
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  25. brain
  26. building
  27. buried
  28. bury
  29. busy
  30. capitalism
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  40. colleague
  41. comment
  42. communism
  43. complex
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  45. concentration
  46. concepts
  47. conference
  48. consecutively
  49. consequences
  50. constant
  51. context
  52. control
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  54. cultural
  55. curveball
  56. deal
  57. decade
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  60. diligently
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  62. documents
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  67. ensure
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  71. expand
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  74. famously
  75. finally
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  80. generic
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  87. heavily
  88. heightening
  89. history
  90. human
  91. idea
  92. ii
  93. impact
  94. incessantly
  95. incident
  96. incoming
  97. information
  98. initial
  99. instantaneously
  100. intended
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  102. interpretation
  103. interpretations
  104. interpreter
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  106. intimidating
  107. introduced
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  116. literally
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  199. stylistic
  200. subject
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  227. tricks
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  235. voraciously
  236. wake
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  238. western
  239. word
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  241. work
  242. world
  243. years