Improving Simultaneous Skills Based On How Your Brain Functions


Want to improve your simultaneous skills based on how your brain functions? We found an awesome study which inspired us to share an interpreting drill (based on those scientific findings) to help you get your simultaneous skills to the next level! 

Researchers at the Centre for Bioelectric Interfaces and the Centre for Cognition & Decision Making of the Higher School of Economics found that while we interpret simultaneously, 

“The brain performs three concurrent mental operations: it perceives and processes current fragments of the message in the original language, stores previously heard information in memory, and, finally, generates an equivalent message in the target language.” 

“The more the interpreter lags from the speaker, the more cognitive resources are engaged by working memory to hold and process previous information, and the less resources are available to process new information.” 

In other words, the longer the delay between the speech and our interpretation, the more memory capacity required to achieve accuracy. 

But please don’t be so quick to discard this delay, known as “decalage.” 

In my experience as a trainer, when students interpret too close to the speech, this short delay tends to decrease their speed and precision. Because they don’t have enough context, they utter more false starts and are forced to spend time on self-corrections, which in turn decreases their speed and accuracy. On the other hand, when they learn to lag behind the speaker, they can further understand the context of the message and thus better predict where the message is headed. 

Roman Koshkin (author of the article and a professional simultaneous interpreter) tells us, “I hope that our research will help our colleagues find the perfect number of words that allows them to understand and convey the meaning of what was said to the audience without missing important details due to memory overload.' “ 

Check out the full EurikAlert! article here. 

My takeaway from this study is the importance of finding that sweet spot: 

Am I lagging far enough behind the speech so I can accurately grasp the meaning from a fuller context? Am I making sure not to drag too far behind so I can still remember the message in detail? 

As a trainer, I have found this exercise to increase precision and speed in the simultaneous mode:

1.Use this link to download one of these audios Alternatively, you may use any audios that have corresponding transcripts.

2. Set an alarm for 3 minutes

3. Use this tool to play the audio at a lower speed.

4.Interpret the speech simultaneously.

5. Stop interpreting when the alarm goes off.

Because you’re working at a low speed, you’ll will have no other option but to wait for the speaker to further contextualize the message, which will help you to get used to increasing the delay of your interpretation. 

Once you have completed that first run, you’ll interpret the same audio following these steps.

1.Set an alarm for 3 minutes.

2. Begin voice recording.

3. Use this tool to play the same audio at a slightly higher speed.

4. Interpret the speech simultaneously. Focus on lagging behind the speech a little longer than you are used to.

5. Stop interpreting when the alarm goes off.

6. Play your recorded interpretation and then compare it to the transcript. You can access the transcripts for the recommended audios here Take note of any error in the interpretation and also note any awesome renditions. 

Rinse and repeat: Do the same steps described above over and over again, each time playing the audio at a slightly higher speed each time while trying to increase your décalage.  

Keep interpreting and then comparing your interpretation to the transcript until spotting no major mistakes. 

Train smart and consistently and you’ll love the results!