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Rodríguez Andrea
Pochhacker, F. (2004). Concepts. Introducing interpreting studies
[versioó n digital] (pp. 9-26). Londres y Nueva York: Routledge. ISBN 0-203-
Interpreting: It is a translational activity. Interpreting is an ancient human practice.

The English word ‘interpreter’ is derived from Latin interpres (in the sense of
‘expounder’, ‘person explaining what is obscure’). While some scholars take the second
part of the word to be derived from partes or pretium (‘price’), thus fitting the meaning
of a ‘middleman’, ‘intermediary’ or ‘commercial go-between’. The Latin term interpres,
denoting someone ‘explaining the meaning’, ‘making sense of’ what others have
difficulty understanding, is An appropriate semantic foundation for ‘interpreter’ and

Interpreting can be distinguished from other types of translational activity by its


a) Interpreting is performed ‘here and now’ for the benefit of people who want to
engage in communication across barriers of language and culture. By elaborating on
the feature of immediacy, one can distinguish interpreting from other forms of

Interpreting is a form of Translation in which – the source-language text is presented

only once and thus cannot be reviewed or replayed, and – the target-language text is
produced under time pressure, with little chance for correction and revision. Kade

interpreting is an immediate type of translational activity, performed ‘in real time’ for
immediate use.

Interpreting as Translation

Translation is:

(a) a process by which a spoken or written utterance takes place in one language
which is intended or presumed to convey the same meaning as a previously existing
utterance in another language (Rabin 1958)

Interpreting is:

a) A form of Translation in which a first and final rendition in another language is

produced on the basis of a one-time presentation of an utterance in a source language.
b) The transfer of thoughts and ideas from one language (source) to another (target),
whether the languages are in written or oral form . . . or whether one or both
languages are based on signs (Brislin 1976a)

(c) A situation-related and function-oriented complex series of acts for the production
of a target text, intended for addressees in another culture/language,on the basis of a
given source text (Salevsky 1993)

(d) Any utterance which is presented or regarded as a ‘translation’ within a culture,on

no matter what grounds (Toury 1995)

Essential feature of Translation (i.e. notions like transfer, ideas, sameness, intention or

An activity consisting (mainly) in the production of utterances (texts) which are

presumed to have a similar meaning and/or effect as previously existing utterances in
another language and culture.

Settings and constellations

Interpreting from a historical perspective, the most obvious criterion for

categorization is the social context of interaction, or setting, in which the activity is
carried out. In its origins, interpreting took place when (members of) different
linguistic and cultural communities entered into contact for some particular purpose.

Inter-social and intra-social settings

Some of the first mediated contacts between communities speaking different

languages will have served the purpose of trading and exchanging goods, of ‘doing
business’, which would give us business interpreting as a ‘primeval’ type of
interpreting. Henri van Hoof (1962) mentions liaison interpreting as a form of
interpreting practiced mainly in commercial negotiations. Gentile et al. (1996) took
advantage of the generic meaning of ‘liaison’, denoting the idea of ‘connecting’ and
‘linking up’, and extended the term ‘liaison interpreting’ to a variety of interpreting
settings across the inter- vs intra-social dimensions.

Where the representatives of different linguistic and cultural communities came

together with the aim of establishing and cultivating political relations, they will have
relied on mediators practicing what is usually called diplomatic interpreting. When
relations turned sour, or maybe before they were even pursued, armed conflict would
have necessitated mediated communication in a military setting. Such military
interpreting, as in talks with allies, truce negotiations or the interrogation of
prisoners, thus bears a historical relation to the diplomatic kind.
Court interpreting is a classic example of interpreting in an intra-social institutional
context. In many jurisdictions, it includes tasks like the certified translation of
documents as well as interpreting in quasi-judicial and administrative hearings.

Educational interpreting went on to become one of the most significant types of

intra-social interpreting.

Arising in the context of (im)migration countries like Sweden and Australia responded
to the demand for interpreting services to help immigrants function in the host
society, others have been slow to address such intra-social communication needs. It
was only in the 1980s and 1990s, in the face of communication problems in public-
sector institutions (healthcare, social services), that ‘interpreting in the community’
(community-based interpreting) acquired increasing visibility. Thus community
interpreting, also referred to as public service interpreting and cultural interpreting ,
emerged as a wide new field of interpreting practice, with healthcare interpreting and
legal interpreting as the most significant institutional domains.

The activity of interpreting has evolved throughout history in a variety of settings,

from first-time encounters between different tribes to institutionalized inter-social
‘dealings’ as well as in intra-social (‘community’) relations.

Interpreting in different spheres of social interaction

In an early sociological analysis, R. Bruce W. Anderson (1976/2002) modeled the

prototypical constellation of interpreting as ‘three-party interaction’ (» 5.3.1), with a
(bilingual) interpreter assuming the pivotal mediating role between two
(monolingual) clients. This is commonly referred to as bilateral interpreting or
dialogue interpreting. While the former foregrounds the (bi) directionality of
mediation (» 1.4.3), the latter highlights the mode of communicative exchange.

International conference interpreting has spread far beyond multilateral diplomacy to

virtually any field of activity involving coordination and exchange across linguistic

conference interpreting takes place within a particular format of interaction

(‘conference’). It is often set in an international environment,though there is usually a
significant ‘local’ market for conference interpreting services mainly between English
and the national language.

interpreting can be conceived as a conceptual spectrum extending from international

(conference)to intra-social (community) interpreting.

Figure 1.2 illustrates this dual spectrum, in which liaison/dialogue interpreting holds
more of the middle ground, with reference to some characteristics which are usually
associated with either end of the spectrum.

Typological parameters

Apart from the broad classification of interpreting types , there are additional and
clear-cut criteria for a more systematic inventory of types and subtypes of
interpreting, among them:

1. Language modality: the term ‘interpreting’ is used generically as implying the use
of spoken languages, in particular Western European languages as used in
international conferences and organizations.

Working mode
It was only in the 1920s, when transmission equipment was developed to enable
interpreters to work simultaneously, that it became meaningful to distinguish between
consecutive interpreting (after the source-language utterance) and simultaneous
interpreting (as the source-language text is being presented). Simultaneous
interpreting was initially implemented as ‘simultaneous consecutive’, that is, the
simultaneous transmission of two or more consecutive renditions in different output
languages. Since consecutive interpreting can be conceived of as a continuum which
ranges from the rendition of utterances as short as one word to the handling of entire
speeches, or more or less lengthy portions thereof, ‘in one go’ (Figure 1.3). The
consecutive interpretation of longer speeches usually involves note-taking as
developed by the pioneers of conference interpreting in the early twentieth century.

consecutive interpreting with the use of systematic note-taking is sometimes

referred to as ‘classic’ consecutive, in contrast to short consecutive without notes.

For sign language interpreters, whose performance in the visual channel leaves little
room for activities requiring additional visual attention, note-taking is less of an
option, and they work in the short consecutive or, typically, the simultaneous mode.
The distinction between consecutive and simultaneous interpreting is not necessarily

Whereas the absence of acoustic source–target overlap makes simultaneous

interpreting (without audio transmission equipment) the working mode of choice for
sign language interpreters, spoken-language interpreting in the simultaneous mode
typically implies the use of electro-acoustic transmission equipment. Only where the
interpreter works right next to one or no more than a couple of listeners can he or she
provide a rendition by whispered interpreting, or ‘whispering’, which is in fact done
not by speaking in a low voice (‘sotto voce’). Simultaneous interpreting (SI) is often
used as shorthand for ‘spoken language interpreting.

A special type of simultaneous interpreting is the rendition of a written text ‘at sight’.
Commonly known as ‘sight translation’, this variant of the simultaneous mode would
be labeled more correctly as ‘sight interpreting’. In sight translation, the interpreter’s
target-text production is simultaneous not with the delivery of the source text but
with the interpreter’s real-time (visual) reception of the written source text.


While the interpreting process as such always proceeds in one direction – from source
to target language – the issue of direction is more complex at the level of the
communicative event. In the prototype case of mediated face-to-face dialogue, the
interpreter will work in both directions, that is, ‘back and forth’ between the two
languages involved, depending on the turn-taking of the parties. Bilateral
interpreting is thus typically linked with the notions of ‘liaison interpreting’ and
‘dialogue interpreting’

There is no special label for ‘one-way’ or one-directional interpreting at the level of the
communicative event. Relevant distinctions are rather made with reference to the
individual interpreter’s combination of working languages

1.4.4 Use of technology

The use of technical equipment functions to avoid the mixing of source- and target-
language messages in the acoustic channel. Apart from their common use in situ, that
is, in conference halls or in noisy conditions, electro-acoustic and audiovisual
transmission systems are employed to reach far beyond a given location. In what is
generally called remote interpreting, the interpreter is not in the same room as the
speaker or listener, or both. Telephone interpreting is usually performed with
standard telecommunications equipment in the bilateral consecutive mode. For
international and multilateral conferences, the use of videoconferencing technology
has made audiovisual remote (conference) interpreting and tele-interpreting the focus
of attention,

Professional status

The unmarked form of ‘interpreting’ often implies professional interpreting,and

‘interpreters’ are regarded as ‘professionals’ with special skills. Historically, it is of
course difficult to clearly separate professional interpreting from what we might call
lay interpreting or natural interpreting, that is, interpreting done by bilinguals
without special training for the task.

Harris as well as Toury agree that there exist socio-cultural translational norms which
shape interpreting practices and determine the skill levels required for the activity to
be recognized as such.

“The translating done in everyday circumstances by people who have had no special
training for it” (Harris and Sherwood 1978:155) has been common practice
throughout history. Today, too, communication with speakers of other languages often
remains heavily dependent on the efforts of natural interpreters, the most significant
example in community settings being bilingual children, of immigrants or deaf
parents, interpreting for their family.

Domains and dimensions

To put interpreting more visibly on the map, Heidemarie Salevsky (1993) proposed an
analogous branch structure for the discipline of interpreting studies, with theoretical
subdomains based on a list of situational variables (see Salevsky 1993: 154):

Varieties of interpreting (consecutive vs simultaneous); The medium (human,

machine, computer-aided interpreting); Language combinations; culture
combinations; Area/institution (interpreting in court, in the media, etc.); Text
relations (text type, degree of specialization, etc.); and Partner relations (source-
text producer vs target-text addressee). the following set of eight dimensions to map
out the theoretical territory of interpreting studies has been adopted: (1) medium; (2)
setting; (3) mode; (4) languages (cultures); (5) discourse; (6) participants, (7)
interpreter; and (8) problem.


Interpreting was characterized as an immediate form of translational activity,

performed for the benefit of people who want to engage in communication across
barriers of language and culture. Defined as a form of Translation in which a first and
final rendition in another language is produced on the basis of a one-time presentation
of a source-language utterance, the concept of interpreting was differentiated
according to social contexts and institutional settings (inter-social vs intra-social
settings) as well as situational constellations and formats of interaction(multilateral
conference vs face-to-face dialogue). In addition to the continuum between the
prototypical domains of international conference interpreting and community-based
dialogue interpreting, including court or legal interpreting and healthcare
interpreting, a more detailed typology of interpreting practices was drawn up by
applying the parameters of language modality (signed- vs spoken-language
interpreting), working mode (consecutive vs simultaneous interpreting),
directionality (bilateral, B/C-to-A, A-to-B and relay interpreting), use of technology
(remote interpreting, machine interpreting), and professional status (‘natural’ vs
professional interpreting). Finally, a conceptual orientation to the complex interplay of
domains and dimensions was offered in the form of a ‘map’ of the theoretical territory
of research on interpreting.


Interpreting denotes facilitating communication from one language into another
language. The conference interpreter translates the message orally. An interpreter
has to master the foreign language/s he/she is working upon, and to undergo special
training as the job requires to perform this task correctly and in real time.

In the case of simultaneous interpretation, the translator is isolated in a sound-

proof booth and speaks in the microphone while the speaker does not stop.

Consecutive interpretation is divided in two: short CI and long CI. Short CI uses
fragments that the interpreter has to memorize and render orally, while in Long CI,
the interpreter takes notes.

Memory can be split in two types: short and long-term memory. Short-term memory
is important for the interpreter to retain what he/she has just heard, while a good
long-term memory helps genuine understanding and an accurate conveying of the

Short and long-term memory

Psychological studies of human memory agree that it can be of two types: short-term
memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM). LTM, is only long-term, never
permanent. (Hopper2010: 102). According to its name, STM is able to retain and recall
the information for just a brief period of time. On the contrary, LTM occurs once you
have created the neural pathways for storing, so the information that you hear can be
stored from minutes to months or even years’ span. “Long-term memory is the neural
pathways and synaptic connections that have stabilized through repeated use”
(Hopper 2010: 102). Some things become part of our memory through rehearsal, and
they belong to the LTM, while the sentences that we hear only once do not get encoded
into our memory, being part of the STM. This short-term memory is extremely
important in an interpreter’s task, since he/she has to quickly convey the message
from the source language into the target language. It only lasts up to thirty seconds,
then it gets erased from one’s memory,

Effort Models

Daniel Gile (1992) talks about the difficulties and efforts “involved in interpreting
tasks and strategies needed to overcome them” (Gile 1992: 191. He proposes his Effort
Models which has been designed to help interpreters understand difficulties [of
interpreting] and select appropriate strategies and tactics. They are based on the
concept of Processing Capacity and on the fact that some mental operations in
interpreting require much Processing Capacity” (Gile 1992:191).

They are constructed upon four types of efforts, namely: the Listening and Analysis
Effort, the Memory Effort, the Production Effort, plus the Coordination one.

The Listening Effort consists of all “comprehension-oriented operations, from the

subconscious analysis of the sound waves carrying the source language speech which
reach the interpreter’s ears through the identification of words to the final decisions
about the ‘meaning’ of the utterance”(Gile 1995: 160). The

listening and analysis efforts recall the presence of understanding, besides the
hearing of words, that is, the brain has to use its capacity of conveying the sounds into
a rational message.

The Memory Effort is viewed as more of a storage mechanism where information is

temporarily kept before further processing takes place.

Production effort is being performed on speech segments

Coordination Effort has a crucial task. It allows the interpreter to manage her focus
of attention between the listening and analysis task and the ongoing self-monitoring
that occurs during performance” (Leeson 2005: 57).
there is synchronization between their skill level and the task they have to perform.
Even if sometimes these Efforts overlap, coordination actually finds the balance
between all the factors.

Effort Model of Simultaneous Interpretation

Gile’s effort model of simultaneous interpreting comprises the above mentioned four
elements, and he codes the model as follows:

SI ( simultaneous inter) = L (Listening and Analysis Effort )+ P (Production Effort) + M

(memory)+ C (Coordination).

Simultaneous interpretation is a total of all these efforts, and it depends on their

complete and smooth running, namely the particular comprehension, short-term
memory, or production operations being performed on speech segments.

Effort Model for Consecutive Interpretation

Consecutive Interpretation consists of two phases: a listening and a reformulation

phase, and then, a reconstruction phase:

CI = L (Listening and Analysis Effort) + M (memory)+ N( note-taking process) followed

by phase two:

CI = Rem + Read + P
Where interpreters retrieve messages from their short-term memory and reconstruct
the speech (Rem), read the notes (N), and produce the Target Language Speech (P).
This formula proposed by Gile is only applicable in the case of long CI, where the
interpreter takes notes to render orally the message at the end of the conference.
Short CI is very close to SI, but the pace of the whole process is slower, which increases
the interpreter’s capacity of understanding and analyzing the information. Due to this,
the interpreter only uses his/her short term-memory and produces the language
speech, without neglecting coordination.

Short CI = L + M + P + C

Short-term memory: acoustic, visual and semantic coding

It is believed that information enters STM as a result of attention to a stimulus. The
encoding of information is done through three modalities: acoustic, visual and

The acoustic coding relates closely to what we hear (words, sentences, sounds),
without placing the emphasis on the meaning of sentences/words. Experiments
suggest that material in our short-term memory is processed largely in terms of
speech sounds, whereas our long-term memory depends primarily on meaning”
(Baddeley 1999:36). Alan Baddeley states that STM depends mainly on acoustic
coding (1966).

During the rapid translation process, the message is rendered appropriately if the
words are heard, but also placed in context. In this case, LTM acts better, and is based
mainly on the interpreter’s good knowledge of the area the translation is being

The visual coding of a message is linked to the pictures or images we mentally create
when we hear a discourse. For some people it is called photographic memory, as they
immortalize an image, while in others, it is less functional.

Semantic coding talks about the actual meaning of words. Kellogg (2003) found out
that semantic codes are powerful in STM, and that people were aware of the actual
meaning of triads or pairs of words given.

Training short-term memory

STM has to be constantly trained, so that the interpreter achieves a better

understanding of the source language and its message.


One important tool in memorizing is mnemonics. A mnemonic device is any learning

technique that helps memory. Mnemonics aims at remembering something that seems
difficult in a form that you remember much easier. In interpretation, the mnemonic
tool may prove helpful, but unfortunately, if the information is totally new, we do not
have the necessary time to find an easy alternative to remember.

Memory can be trained and improved. Vivid and colorful images are well received by
your brain, so any time you hear something, try to turn it into a pleasant image for the
brain. In order to make your mnemonics more memorable, you should use positive,
pleasant images. Your brain often blocks out unpleasant ones. You should also use
vivid, colorful, sense-laden images – these are easier to remember than drab ones.
Humour is always a good means of easily remembering things or aspects, while
symbols, like road signs, or red traffic lights can code quite complex messages quickly
and effectively.

The link method

Memory has very little to do with intelligence, but a lot to do with practice and
technique. So, do not be afraid to experiment. The more ridiculous the images you
create in your mind, the better chances of remembering them you will have. If the
images your mind creates are too common, your STM will not be able to recall them.

1. Picture items out of proportion, that is gigantic or of memorable size

2. Picture your items in action whenever possible. Violent or shocking images in action
make the whole scene more memorable.

3. Exaggerate the number of items. You can easily imagine “thousands” or “millions”

The link method boils down to strange associations that you make in your head. The
more ridiculous and illogical the associations are, the better your chances to
remember the items are.


Another simple method that will relieve the strain on your STM is by taking notes.
This thing is possible, even if the speaker has a rapid pace. All the interpreter has to do
is to be used to some abbreviations.

Imagination, association and location

Imagination, association and location are the three most important aids in developing
your mnemonic. Imagination talks about the power with which you create an image
so that it will come to you later. Association links certain things with others,
sometimes sounds or even smells. Location gives you two things: a coherent context
into which you can place information so that it hangs together, and a way of separating
one mnemonic from another.

Telling a story in the source language

Another exercise designed for memory improvement in interpreting is retelling a story

in the source language.

Zhong suggests four types of tactics: “Categorization: Grouping items of the same
properties; Generalization: Drawing general conclusions from particular examples or
message from the provided text; Comparison: Noticing the differences and
similarities between different things, facts and events; Description: Describing a
scene, a shape, or size of an object, etc.


Interpretation is a complex task that requires the association of many factors. The role
of the memory is extremely important. Short-term memory is based especially on the
actual hearing of sounds, without always filtering the information, that is why the

interpreter has to be careful with the message he/she conveys r. Due to the fact that
long-term memory involves neural pathways and synaptic connections, it is better
established in the interpreter’s brain. So, long-term memory has the advantage that
the interpreter is better acquainted with the field to which the translation belongs. We
have to encourage memory training through all of its aspects - acoustic, visual, or
semantic, which together with the other tools is crucial in the interpreter’s work.


The effort model of interpreting

Automatic operations, processing capacity and interpreting Efforts
Automatic and non-automatic operations

The development of the Models originated in two intuitive ideas based on observation
and introspection:

Interpreting requires some sort of ‘mental energy’ that is only available in limited


– Interpreting takes up almost all of this mental energy, and sometimes requires

more than is available, at which times performance deteriorates.

Toward the end of the 1940s, Claude Shannon, formulated the idea that any channel
serving to transmit information had a finite transmission capacity beyond which
information losses occurred (Shannon 1948).

The idea is that some mental operations (‘non-automatic operations’) require

attention (alternative names are ‘attentional resources’ and ‘processing capacity’), and
others (‘automatic operations’)do not. Such non-automatic operations also take time,
whereas automatic operations are very fast. Non-automatic operations take
processing capacity from a limited available supply. When the processing capacity
available for a particular task is insufficient, performance deteriorates.

The distinction between automatic and non-automatic operations is sometimes

difficult to make, as non-automatic operations vary in the processing capacity they
require and may become automatic after enough repetition. According to cognitive
psychology, non-automatic operations are those which cannot be or are not
automated, such as detecting a brief stimulus, identifying a non-familiar stimulus or a
familiar stimulus presented under poor conditions, storing information in memory for
later use, preparing for a non-automated response, controlling 160 Basic Concepts and
Models for Interpreter and Translator Training the accuracy of a movement or
manipulating symbols in a person’s cognitive system. Automatic operations include
decoding a familiar stimulus presented under favorable conditions, triggering an
automated response and operating a motor programme without control (Richard
1980: 149–150).

Interpreting Efforts
namely a listening and analysis component, a speech production component, and a short-term
memory component. I called these components ‘Efforts’ to stress their effortful nature, as they
include deliberate action which requires decisions and resources.

The Listening and analysis Effort consists of all comprehension-oriented operations,

from the subconscious analysis of the sound waves carrying the source-language speech
which reach the interpreter’s ears through the identification of words to the final decisions
about the ‘meaning’ of the utterance. It is not clear how far the analysis of the meaning of
the source-language speech must go before interpreting is possible. it is suggested that
such comprehension goes at least as far as understanding the general underlying logic of
each sentence. Even by the most conservative standards, one can say that except for some
names which interpreters may simply try to imitate phonetically, interpreting requires at
the very least the recognition of words in the source-language speech. This is enough to
put the Listening and analysis component in the non-automatic category.

In order for words to be recognized, acoustic features of the incoming sounds have to be
analyzed and compared with patterns stored in the listener’s long-term memory. Speech
recognition as it occurs in interpreting has non-automatic components. Actually,
interpreters know that interpreting involves much more than speech recognition. Some
kind of semantic representation of the content of source speeches is always present,
which includes plausibility analyses and probably some anticipation. When interpreting
simultaneously, interpreters do achieve a level of comprehension much beyond the
recognition of individual words. Interpreting comprehension goes beyond word
recognition. Interpreters have to concentrate on everything the speaker says whereas
delegates can select the information they are interested in. The interpreters’ relevant
extralinguistic knowledge, and often the terminological part of their linguistic knowledge,
are less comprehensive than the delegates’. It follows that comprehension during
interpreting is a non-automatic process.

The Production Effort

This is the name given here to the ‘output part’ of interpreting. In simultaneous
interpreting, it can be defined as the set of operations extending from the mental
representation of the message to be delivered to speech planning and the performance of
the speech plan, including self-monitoring and self-correction when necessary. According
to Holmes (1988: 324), “Speakers’ efforts to realize their intentions are seldom completely
fluent and error-free.” For Clark and Clark (1977: 226), “Speaking is problem solving.”
Speech production problems account for a number of interesting phenomena. One of
them is that speakers tend to “be tempted and constrained to having recourse to ready
made verbal sentences, phrases and clichés” (Goldman-Eisler 1958: 67–68). Speech
production under interpreting conditions may be difficult. People who speak on their own
behalf are free to speak their own mind and bypass possible production difficulties by
rearranging the sequence of information and ideas, or by dropping or modifying some of
these or using standard phrases which are not necessarily quite in line with their initial
message. On the other hand, the very fact that lexical and syntactic choices are made by
the speaker can in some cases help the interpreter, if s/he can make similar or ‘parallel’
choices in the target language, or at least use them in some way when retrieving words
from his/her mental lexicon and making his/her own syntactic choices. Such verbal piggy-
back riding is often done, at times consciously, and seems to help interpreters speak faster
than they can when they have only their natural fluency to rely on – but entails risks, as
explained below. If an interpreter uses source-language words and structures to construct
his/her own target-language speech, the speech production process becomes more

– Following the source-language structure and lexical choices in one’s target language
speech is risky because the interpreter may get stuck because of syntactic and grammatical
differences between the languages.

Besides the risk of getting stuck, when following the target-language structure and lexicon,
interpreters may find themselves deprived of part of their own favourite productive
linguistic resources as speakers (words and structures) which they might put to use if they
were to produce a speech on the basis of meaning rather than on the basis of a linguistic
structure borrowed from another speaker, in another language at that. – Third, such
transcoding is associated with great danger of linguistic interference between the two
languages, be it gross interference resulting in grammatical errors, mispronunciations and
false cognates, or more discrete interference that will make the interpreter’s speech more
hesitant, less idiomatic, less clear, less pleasant to listen to. Fourth, by focusing on
language, the interpreter is in greater danger of processing the incoming speech more
superficially than if s/he produced the speech from the meaning. The rule to be followed
whenever possible is to produce the target-language speech on the basis of the meaning,
not the words of the source language speech. It appears that the effects of interpreting
constraints on production are stronger in simultaneous than in consecutive, probably
because of differences between the two modes, both in processing capacity management
and in time constraints. A further difficulty rises from the fact that interpreters often have
to produce speech in fields with which they are not necessarily familiar. Speech
production in interpreting is clearly a non-automatic operation.

The Memory Effort During interpreting

Short-term memory operations (up to a few seconds) succeed each other without
interruption. Other short-term memory operations are associated with the time it takes to
produce speech (selecting the appropriate words and syntactic structures and
implementing the speech plan), during which interval the idea or information to be
worded has to be maintained in memory. if the speech is unclear because of its logic,
information density, unusual linguistic structure or speaker’s accent, the interpreter may
wish to wait for a short while before reformulating it (in simultaneous) or taking notes (in
consecutive) so as to have more time and a larger context to deal with comprehension and
reformulation difficulties. Language-specific factors may also require short-term memory
operations. Short-term memory operations fall under the category of non-automatic
operations because they include the storage of information for later use (see Richard
1980, cited earlier).

Psychologists traditionally make a distinction between long-term memory (what we refer

to as ‘memory’ in everyday life) and short-term memory, which is the ability to keep
information and process it over a short period. A third type of memory, called sensory
memory. It is considered an important determinant of cognitive operations and is now
sometimes referred to as ‘working memory’ (though ‘short-term memory’ is a fairly
generic concept while ‘working memory’ is more specific). In 1974, Baddeley and Hitch
developed a model of working memory with a specific structure and operational
components, including a ‘Central Executive’, a modality-free cognitive mechanism which
coordinates the operation of the other entities in the model, namely a ‘phonological loop’
which holds information in phonological form and a ‘visuo-spatial sketch pad’ specialized
in spatial and/or visual information coding.

1. Working memory is a set of mechanisms or processes involved in the control, regulation

and active maintenance of task-relevant information in the service of complex cognition; it
operates primarily on currently ‘activated’ information from long-term memory.

2. Working memory requires processing capacity

3. Working memory has a small storage capacity. Working memory is necessarily part of
the language-comprehension process and of the speech-production process. It is part of
the Memory Effort.

An Effort Model of simultaneous interpreting

simultaneous interpreting (SI) can be modeled as a process consisting of the

three core Efforts described above, namely L, the Short-term memory Effort
M and the Speech production Effort P, plus a Coordination Effort C which
corresponds to resources required to coordinate the three other Efforts
(Eysenck & Keane 1990): (1) SI = L + P + M + C (In this formula, the ‘equal’ sign
should be interpreted as meaning ‘consists of”). this model depicts
simultaneous interpreting as a process which involves a set of operations on
successive speech segments. Each of them is heard and analyzed (L), then
stored in memory for a short while (M), and finally reformulated in the target
language (P).

The sequential linearity simplification It is convenient to think of the

Listening, Production and Memory Efforts as handling sequentially Translation
Units or ‘speech segments’. if the source speech consists of successive
segments A, B, C, D, E, F etc., Production could focus on segment A while
segment B has been analyzed and is waiting in short term memory for its turn
to be reformulated, and segment C is being analyzed by the Listening and
Analysis Effort. Generally, with the exception of anticipated segments, source-
speech segments can be reproduced in the Target Text (Effort P) only after
they have been understood (Effort L).

Operational processing capacity requirements during simultaneous

interpreting can therefore be represented as follows: (2) TR = LR + MR + PR +
CR TR Total processing capacity requirements LR processing capacity
requirements for L MR processing capacity requirements for M PR processing
capacity requirements for P CR processing capacity requirements for C In this
‘equation’, the equality sign can be interpreted in its usual mathematical
meaning, but the plus signs refer to some additively in a very wide sense.

In order for interpreting to proceed smoothly, the following five conditions

have to be met at any time: (3) TR ≤ TA TA total available processing capacity
(Total processing capacity requirements should not exceed the interpreter’s
total available processing capacity.) (4) LR ≤ LA LA being the processing
capacity available for L (5) MR ≤ MA MA being the processing capacity
available for M (6) PR ≤ PA PA being the processing capacity available for P
(7) CR ≤ CA CA being the processing capacity available for C The last four
inequalities state that processing capacity available for each Effort should be
sufficient to complete the task it is engaged in.

Problem triggers

A major objective of the Model is to explain interpreting difficulties (such

triggers include names, numbers, enumerations, fast speeches, strong foreign
or regional accents, poor speech logic, poor sound, etc.). In the Effort Models
framework, problem triggers are seen as associated with increased
processing capacity requirements which may exceed available capacity or
cause attention management problems, or with vulnerability to a momentary
lapse of attention of speech segments with certain features. For instance, a
long name may come up at the end of a sentence rather than in the middle
and be followed by a long inter-sentence pause. Processing capacity problems
may result in deterioration of the content of the target language speech
(errors, omissions, etc.) and/or of its delivery.

Two types of anticipation are considered here: ‘linguistic anticipation’ and

‘extralinguistic anticipation’.

Linguistic anticipation

In every language, words follow each other with highly differentiated

probabilities (‘transitional probabilities’): for instance, in English, the
probability that an article will be followed by a noun or an adjective is high
and the probability that it will be followed by another article or a verb is low.
Beyond general grammatical rules, collocations and standard phrases offer
obviously high probabilities for specific word sequences. Knowledge of such
rules helps reduce uncertainty and thus also reduces processing capacity
requirements in speech comprehension. Such ‘linguistic anticipation’ is
viewed as very central in human language perception by Richaudeau (1973:

Extralinguistic anticipation

Besides so-called ‘linguistic anticipation’, good knowledge of the conference

situation, of the subject and of the speaker and good understanding of the
unfolding statements often make it possible to anticipate ideas and
information expressed in speeches. ‘Anticipation’ is defined here as some
knowledge of the probability of the speaker reacting or speaking in a
particular way in the context or situation at hand, not necessarily as the exact
prediction of the speaker’s world.

Note that the distinction between ‘linguistic’ and ‘extralinguistic’ anticipation

is made for didactic purposes, because of the practical implications, just as
the distinction was made between ‘linguistic’ and ‘extralinguistic’ knowledge

An Effort Model of consecutive interpreting

Consecutive interpreting is performed in two phases, the comprehension

phase (or listening and note-taking phase), and the speech production (or
reformulation) phase. Phase one: listening and note-taking (8) Interpreting = L
+ N + M + C L Listening and Analysis N Note-taking M Short-term Memory
operations C Coordination During this phase, L is the same Listening and
Analysis Effort as in the simultaneous mode, and M is similar to the Memory
Effort in simultaneous interpreting. In simultaneous, it is associated with the
time which elapses between the moment a speech segment is heard and the
moment its content is reformulated in the target language, deliberately
omitted or lost from memory. In consecutive, it is associated with the time
between the moment it is heard and the moment it is written down (if it is
written down) or processed mentally and sent on to (long-term) memory. As
to the Production Effort, during the first phase of consecutive interpreting, it
is devoted to the production of notes, in contrast to the production of
structured natural language as in simultaneous interpreting. Phase two:
target-speech production (9) Interpreting = Rem + Read + P + C Rem
Remembering Read Note-reading P Production In phase two, the Rem
component is the set of mental operations devoted to recalling the successive
parts of the original speech from long-term memory and is therefore different
from the short-term M component. While phase one is paced by the speaker,
in phase two the interpreter is free to perform the three Efforts and allocate
processing capacity to each at his/her own pace, which also reduces pressure
on the Coordination component. In the reformulation phase, the interpreter
does not have to share processing capacity between tasks under high
cognitive load, there are no problems arising from an accumulation of tasks
under the pressure of time resulting in capacity requirement peaks.

The facts that in consecutive, speech comprehension and speech

production are separated in time are a major difference which distinguishes
it from simultaneous.

Note-taking is not governed by rules of linguistic acceptability – lexical,

syntactic, stylistic, or otherwise. When processing capacity requirements for
the Listening and Analysis Effort become high, some resources can be freed
by reducing the quantity of notes being taken. In simultaneous, slowing down
speech production results in some lag, which has a cost in Memory Effort
load and may have to be made up later at the expense of increased capacity
requirements for Production. In consecutive, reducing the amount of
information that is written down in notes does not necessarily result in much
increase in information to be stored in short-term memory and reformulated
in the target language at a later stage.

It could be argued that note-taking requires less time than speech

production in simultaneous, because notes can take the form of single words,
abbreviations, drawings and symbols, whereas speech production in
simultaneous requires the construction of full sentences. Furthermore, as
highlighted above, only part of the information is taken down while the rest is
committed to (long-term) memory. Symbols and abbreviations are an
attractive tool, provided they have been fully mastered by the interpreter.

A reasonable alternative would be taking notes in the target language when

cognitive pressure is not too high and reverting to source-language notes
when close to saturation.

Efforts in sight translation

Sight translation is less frequent in conference interpreting than simultaneous

or consecutive. It consists in ‘reading’ a source-language text aloud in the
target language. It occurs when delegates receive a text and want to have it
translated orally on the spot, or when a speech segment has been read from
a text which is then handed over to the interpreter who is asked to translate
it orally. It can be modeled as follows:

(15) Sight translation = Reading Effort + Memory Effort + Speech Production

Effort + Coordination

In sight translation, what was the Listening and Analysis Effort in

simultaneous becomes a Reading Effort, and the Production Effort remains,
but while short-term memory is necessary to identify and understand speech
segments as it is in simultaneous or consecutive, longer-term retention of
words and clauses until they are enlisted for target-speech production is less
of a problem because of the continued availability of the information in the
text. In the Reading Effort, sight translators are not helped by vocal
indications such as the speaker’s intonation, hesitations or other pauses
which are found in simultaneous and consecutive interpreting and which help
them segment the text into Translation Units. Moreover, in contrast to
consecutive, while reading, they cannot devote all their efforts to
understanding the meaning of the text but must think of its translation as
well in order for their target-language rendition to be smooth enough.

Simultaneous interpreting with text is a very common interpreting modality.

Simultaneous interpreting with text is associated with the following Efforts:

(16) Simultaneous Interpreting with text = Reading Effort + Listening Effort +

Memory Effort + Production Effort + Coordination Effort

This combination of simultaneous interpreting and sight translation has the

following features: On the facilitating side: – The existence of vocal
indications from the speaker,The visual presence of all the information, which
reduces memory problems and the effect of acoustic difficulties and unusual
accents as well as the probability of failures due to insufficient processing
capacity in the Listening and Analysis Effort. In other words, the Reading
Effort and Listening Effort cooperate to a large extent. On the negative side: –
The high density and peculiar linguistic constructions of written texts as
opposed to oral discourse, which require more processing capacity in the
analysis component.

The key to good simultaneous interpreting with text is good processing

capacity management with the right balance between processing resources
allocated to listening and resources allocated to reading.

The Tightrope Hypothesis

The full relevance of the Effort Models in explaining interpreting difficulties

only appears in conjunction with the ‘Tightrope Hypothesis’. The Tightrope
Hypothesis says that most of the time, interpreters work close to saturation,
be it in terms of total processing capacity requirements or as regards
individual Efforts because of high Effort-specific requirements and/or sub-
optimized allocation of resources to each of them.
In terms of Effort Models and for the purpose of the comparison between
translation and interpreting, written translation can be modeled as:

(17) Translation = Reading Effort + Writing Effort

In translation there is virtually no competition between Efforts, since all the

available capacity can be devoted alternately to the Reading and analysis
Effort and to the writing Effort

Finally, besides task-dependent processing capacity requirements, good

processing capacity management (allocating and shifting processing capacity
between the various Efforts) is important for interpreting.

The Effort Models are basically a conceptual framework rather than a theory
in the Popperian sense (i.e. one which should be formulated in such a way as
to make it testable for the purpose of revealing its weaknesses if any so as to
foster the development of alternative theories). The Effort Models and other
models are essentially didactic and have been developed in such a way as to
be immediately understood by student interpreters.

Interpreters and students are aware of the fact that while interpreting, they
need to store some information which they will later need to recover, and
while some information storage and retrieval operations are subconscious (in
the course of the Listening Effort and of the Production Effort), some are
conscious and deliberate, with choices regarding what information to render
immediately in the target language or take down as notes and what to store
tactically while waiting for more information which will help understand it,
confirm it and/or reformulate it into the target language. The ‘Memory
Effort’ as defined in the Effort Models is what they experience consciously
and can relate to both conceptually and in the choice of words

1- Simultaneous interpreting can be viewed as a set of three core Efforts,

namely the Listening and Analysis Effort, the Production Effort and the short-
term Memory Effort, each of which takes up part of a limited supply of
processing capacity.

2. Problems occur when total processing capacity requirements exceed

available processing capacity (saturation), and when processing capacity
available for a given Effort is not sufficient for the task it is engaged in at a
given time (individual deficit).

3. Consecutive interpreting consists of a listening phase, followed by a

reformulation phase. In terms of processing capacity, only the former is

4. Note-taking is a major processing capacity-consuming component of

consecutive. Note-taking management is an important aspect of failure
prevention. There are many valid systems for note-taking, and adapting them
to the interpreter’s personal ‘style’ or creating one’s own note-taking system
are valid strategies.

5. In sight translation and simultaneous with text, some of the pressure on

short-term memory disappears, but texts often have a higher density than ad-
libbed speeches, and there is increased danger of linguistic interference.
When interpreting simultaneously with text, it is important to give
precedence to the speaker’s voice rather than to the written text.

6. Processing capacity constraints account for major differences between the

skills required for interpreting and translation