Today, simultaneous interpreting is clearly associated with specialized equipment and the workplace, although this type of interpreting has much deeper roots.

Simultaneous interpreting came long before the first synchronized interpreter’s booth was installed. It is impossible to determine the date, or even the century, when shushing, or individual whispering, was first used. This is also a type of simultaneous interpreting that does not require special equipment. Still, most sources tend to agree that the profession of interpreter-syndromist developed with the advent of simultaneous interpreting equipment in the 1920s.

The first set of simultaneous interpreting equipment was invented by Edward Filen. His patent, registered in 1926, was later acquired by IBM. The equipment consisted of a telephone, microphones and headphones, with the auditorium also provided with telephones. The Filene-Finley (Filene-Finley) headset system was named Hushaphone.

IBM was eager to promote its device, and in 1927 it had its first baptism of fire at the League of Nations conference in Geneva. However, not trusting new technologies, the organizers still provided translators with the texts of the speeches in advance.

The starting point is the Nuremberg Trials
Simultaneous translation came close to the modern form at the Nuremberg Trials, which began on November 20, 1945. Since the trial involved assessors from the US, UK, France, Russia and other countries, and the defendants and witnesses mostly spoke German, consistent translation into 3 languages would have taken an enormous amount of time. Even with simultaneous translation, which was provided by 36 translators in shifts, the process took 218 days to complete.

With few exceptions, translation was not provided by professional translators, but mostly by emigrants: educators, lawyers, scientists, diplomats, and military personnel. All of them translated only into their native language. It was an unprecedented technical and professional victory over linguistic barriers to communication.

After the Nuremberg Trials, the practicality of a new kind of interpretation became clear to the whole world. Experienced interpreters from the League of Nations moved to the new international organization, the United Nations, which began using simultaneous interpretation with portable equipment on a regular basis in the fall of 1947.

Published On: March 1st, 2023 / Categories: Uncategorized /

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