Have you ever heard of the job, simultaneous interpreter? How do you think about it? Most people consider the job somewhat far from themselves. It makes communication possible between people of different languages, and simultaneous interpreters’ activity and presence in the international conferences impress the world. Let’s meet one of them---Lim Mira, who has achieved a lot despite her young age.
1. Could you please tell us about the job of simultaneous interpreter?
A Simultaneous interpreter is a person who translates international conference a concurrently as you listen to the speaker. Governments or major companies usually hire them when they sponsor international conferences or other events.
2. What is the reason you chose to be a simultaneous interpreter?
At first I was not aware of the job, simultaneous interpreter. After graduating university, I took a charge of Chinese translation and interpretation in the Ministry of Information and Communication. When I felt doubts about the life there, I met a freelance simultaneous interpreter by chance. I thought a freelancing job is awesome, and I quit my job despite attempts at dissuasion by my family and friends. Then I enrolled in a private institute to prepare for the test for simultaneous interpreter. Fortunately, I haven’t regretted the choice until now.
3. What are the essential qualifications for the job of simultaneous interpreter?
Like any other job, the more the better. In the case of simultaneous interpreter, you need to be able to react instantly as you have to listen and speak at the same time. The most important thing is that you must be proficient in a native language (Korean) as well as a foreign language. The point is whether you have a good command of advanced Korean language or not. An ability to adapt to circumstances, knowledge in diverse areas, reasoning skill and understanding to follow the logic of speaker are also important. In addition, concentration and stamina are needed as you have to work long hours, and it is really important to deliver the meaning correctly even though your accent is not perfect.
4. I have read an article that states simultaneous interpreters should make their sentences easy to understand after processing in a short time what they have listened to. What effort do you make for that purpose?
“Sentences easy to understand” is important. In the introductory course in simultaneous interpretation at graduate school, we practice counting 100 to 1 while listening to a speaker for 5 minutes. Then we summarize what the speaker said and our partners confirm that we counted the numbers accurately. You may not need to practice that way until you begin the graduate course. There is another method that I developed on my own, which is keep interpreting silently while I watch foreign TV shows or hang out with my friends.
5. Do you have any memorable episodes while working as simultaneous interpreter?
There are some embarrassing moments. Usually keynote speakers or hosts make a joke or do a play on words to break the ice before conferences. Once, at a conference of Architecture the host made a joke, saying, “Do you know why all the Apartments in Korea have English names? That is because Korean daughters-in-laws want to make it confusing for their mothers-in-laws so that they wouldn’t visit their house.” The problem is that there were many scholars from America and Europe, and they didn’t seem to understand the joke while Asian scholars found it very funny and laughed out loud. English interpreters had a very awkward moment then, as only Asians responded to the joke. Another episode is when there was the Korea-China-Japan Real Estate Policy Conference last year. A few months before the conference many lives were lost due to the tsunami in Japan, and a Japanese scholar was almost brought to tears while he was giving a presentation on the policy of that region. All the audiences were moved at the sight and we all paid a silent tribute to the deceased in the middle of the conference. I believe that was the most touching moment that I had experienced so far.
6. Language is influenced by that country’s culture. Do you think having a broad knowledge of each country’s culture is an important part of a simultaneous interpreter’s work? What do you do?
Learning about culture is very important, as many speakers use the issues or cultures of their own country to make a point. In the case of Chinese speakers, they often use four character idioms. The most effective way to learn and understand the Chinese culture may be to live in that country for a long time, but that is not always possible for everybody so I recommend learning via the media such as TV shows or movies. You don’t have to watch news or current affairs program. Watching dramas or sitcom is enough to pick up what are the latest issues and trends immediately. Another way is to make friends with the increasing number of Chinese students in Korea, and I think it becomes much easier to have Chinese friends than before. We have them learn Korean culture and we can learn from them, and it’s a really good study in both ways.
7. Simultaneous interpreters are equipped with advanced abilities in listening and speaking a foreign language. That is something really coveted by students who wish to have related occupations or who simply want to learn languages. Could you please share your special know-how with these students?
When people try to learn a foreign language, they usually want to approach the advanced level through the news or newspaper. But first of all what you have to understand is the basic of any language is in everyday expressions. That is why I recommend watching dramas or sitcoms rather than news or current affairs program. Secondly, pronunciation is crucial for studying a foreign language, so try to learn pronunciation perfectly from the basic level. You may not believe it, but I studied pronunciation for a whole semester in high school. I was young and I wanted to rush to learn sophisticated and hard expressions as soon as possible, but my teacher, who was Chinese, emphasized the massive importance of pronunciation, telling me that I wouldn’t regret if I make it perfect in the beginning stage. I truly appreciate the advice now.
8. You have achieved a lot for your young age. What is your ultimate goal as a Korean-Chinese simultaneous interpreter?
In fact I’m a bit worried as I have too many dreams. For one thing, I want to publish a book when I achieve the career of 1000-hours of interpretation and translation. The second, I would like to train many wonderful junior colleagues. Currently I’m teaching at an institute of interpretation and translation, and I see many students who wish to become a simultaneous interpreter without really understanding the job correctly. I tried to guide them by giving our correct information and explanation, but that made me feel responsible for those students. And I know it may sound absurd, but my biggest dream is become a radio DJ. I really enjoyed being a DJ in high school, introducing music and reading students’ stories on air during the lunch hour. And another one is to offer free classes for teenagers who wish to learn Chinese but struggle because of academy fees. There are many free educational systems for English and Math, but programs for second language learning seem to be hard to find. I want to work on my plan with other interpreters who share my belief.
To become a simultaneous interpreter, you have to have a belief and confidence in yourself. Only when you have a confidence in yourself can you convey what the speaker wants to deliver. You also have to have undying spirit to learn, as the areas you have to translate are very diverse.
Through the interview with Lim Mira, we could get not only her various experiences but also valuable advice for students in their 20s. There was strong passion in her interview. She has experienced a lot, lived longer than we, but she was following her dreams, which were far more than those of us students. We may be able to have a life as wonderful as hers, if we do our best with our passion. No matter how hard it seems to realize your dreams, you may find yourself crossing the goal line if you run hard to follow your dream.
< Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >