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Some institutes in Europe have started to offer some courses in community or court interpreting. However, until now I have not heard of specific programs for media interpreting. Is there no need for specialized training in this field?

asked 29 Mar '12, 09:04

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edited 18 Aug '12, 14:20

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Hi Svenja

I've never heard of one. And I think it's probably for the following reasons...

Court and community interpreting are huge markets in their own right (for example this page will tell you that there are 1600 interpreters registered to the courts in Berlin alone). Media interpreting is a tiny niche with very few, if any, interpreters working exclusively in media. Media interpreting is also a very similar skill to conference interpreting.

As a result media interpreting is sometimes added as an extra to other interpreting courses but it is not likely to be the focus of an entire course. Graduates wouldn't be able to make a career exclusively out of it. There just isn't that much work about.

If you want some more information about media interpreting have a look at the following pages:

I hope that's helpful

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answered 29 Mar '12, 10:33

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edited 31 Mar '12, 20:21

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Vincent Buck

The first and important thing to say is that media interpreting is a niche market. I would be very surprised if there were more than a couple dozen professionals worldwide making a living out of media assignments. Those professionals will first and foremost be conference interpreters, since virtually all media interpreting is done in the simultaneous mode.

It's niche market because very few networks routinely use interpreters.

As a matter of fact broadcasters will bend over backwards to avoid them -- preferring dubbing or voice-overs -- because they believe rightly or wrongly that simultaneous interpreting 'alienates' viewers. Brecht's famous Verfremdungseffekt comes to mind.

For instance, the BBC will systematically use voice-over artists to do an English version of interviews with foreign VIPs. ( Having done away with the potential source of alienation due to live simultaneous interpreting, or voice-over done by a professional interpreter, it's quite amusing that they then proceed to reinject some 'alien' element into the show by having the voice-over done by a non-native speaker, which systematically results in the foreign VIP sounding less eloquent and credible than he or she actually is. But I digress...)

Other networks who rely on professional interpreters - that probably excludes the likes of CNN, etc. - will do so only for breaking news. Those assignments will always be last minute -- "can you be in the studio in 30 minutes?" -- so they'll get whoever is available and has the proper languages. Breaking news interpreting is a rush job not only for the interpreters concerned but often for the whole news and audio engineering team. It's usually not the interpreters who require training in that context, but the networks themselves and especially the audio engineers.

The working environment is way better with networks who routinely call on professional interpreters to translate foreign guests on talkshows. But that's an über-niche market where very few interpreters operate, and they've been trained on the job. For instance, Franco-German broadcaster ARTE organises occasional voice coaching seminars for its interpreters.

In a nutshell, I do not believe it would be worthwhile for interpreting programmes to train future professionals for media interpreting, especially because media interpreting may not be quite like interpreting in the first place, as I've tried to describe in a recent interview with Japanese media interpreter Chikako Tsurata on

That said, I do believe that interpreting programmes ought to be covering voice control and delivery skills, energy, pitch and rhythm, breathing, microphone management. Not only should an interpreter's rendition of the speaker be technically accurate. It should also be pleasant to listen to however stressful the job may be.

Any professional conference interpreter with the proper languages and excellent voice characteristics and skills is a potential candidate for media interpreting.

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answered 29 Mar '12, 10:38

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Vincent Buck

edited 29 Mar '12, 11:53

I find media interpreting fascinating. I have never done it myself, but I can't help sharing with you the recording of a colleague of mine here in Spain who recently interpreted an interview for TV (he does a lot of media work). He told me that in this particular case, they weren't going to use the simultaneous interpretation in the show itself, just as the basis for preparing subtitles after the fact. But as it turned out, they liked his performance so much, they decided to air the show with the interpretation, uncut and unedited. And if you listen to it, you have to admit, it really does sound good! (N.B. I've been told that this link to the Spanish Canal+ site only works in Spain - sorry!)

Iñaki Gabilondo y Roberto Saviano en Canal+

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answered 29 Mar '12, 18:05

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edited 31 Mar '12, 14:11

I do quite a lot of media interpreting. Let me share with you what happened to me back in 1999, then point you to serious stuff based on reseach.

We had been hired to interpret into Spanish the BBC live broadcasting of the Wedding of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie Rhys-Jones. I was supposed to do the female voice and my colleague, the male voice. There was no script or background material provided to us. So we prepared by looking into publications of past royal weddings in English and Spanish and building our vocabulary base comparing terminology. We covered dresses, means of transportation, liturgy, and what`s not. We felt pretty safe.

We were 15 minutes into the program when the satellite transmission collapsed. We, and the TV audience in Argentina, could see the image but not hear anything. To our horror and dismay, producers started to put up sheets of paper saying: KEEP ON TALKING. WE ARE LIVE!!!!

Thanks God, my colleague, Marcos Celesia, is an incredibly knowledgable and cultured man. What he did was basically describe what went on: that the King and Queen of....Mr. and Mrs..... have just entered the Abbey of Westminster. That this and that were not wearing the customary hats mandated by tradition, etc, etc. CONCLUSION: In this type of interpreting more is required of interpreters in terms of general culture and knowledge and, nerve, of course. Enough about personal anecdotes.

Now, serious stuff. There is a very interesting research paper on this topic by Liao, Hsing-Hsien. 2004. Quality standards and training for television news interpreting: From the perspective of television news translators and interpreters (in Chinese). In this unpublished MA thesis the author says that "the need for television interpreting has increased since the Gulf War of 1991. Breaking news in other parts of the world has also generated greater demand for use of television interpreting services. As television interpreting is considered to be a highly difficult type of interpreting, it is important to establish a standard for quality in television interpreting, and to determine if special training is required to provide quality television interpreting services. There have been many empirical studies and discussions about live television interpreting, most of which approach television interpreting from the perspective of users, i.e. television audiences. This study intends to explore views of quality and hiring decisions from the perspective of television news translators and interpreters.

A questionnaire survey of 11 television news translators and interpreters shows that:

  1. Television news stations prefer in-house translators to professional interpreters for breaking news interpreting.
  2. Training of interpreting is recommended for potential television news interpreters.
  3. Special training focusing on television interpreting should be offered by educational institutions.

The study also shows that working experience and training in interpreting affect the views of quality and hiring decision in television interpreting. The study also presents lists of quality standards and training curriculum from the perspective of television news translators and interpreters. CIRIN Bulletin Nº 34

A good start but I think more research is needed into interpreting in this type of setting to substantiate the need of different training.

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answered 01 Apr '12, 20:21

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edited 01 Apr '12, 20:39

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck


If you are interested in media interpreting I suggest that you google "media interpreting francesco straniero" (Francesco Straniero was a great expert in research on media interpreting), and you will find some interesting publications - also by other scholars - on norms and quality when interpreting for the media. I have done a lot of TV interpreting myself: voice and pace are all important.

Stefano Marrone

(02 Apr '12, 09:00) AIICTraining

If you are interested in media interpreting I suggest that you google "media interpreting francesco straniero" (Francesco Straniero was one of the greatest experts in research on media interpreting), and you will find some interesting publications - also by other scholars - on norms and quality when interpreting for the media. I have done a lot of TV interpreting myself: voice and pace are all important.

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answered 30 Mar '12, 10:49

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question asked: 29 Mar '12, 09:04

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