CONFERENCE INTERPRETING: THE ORIGINS
Interpretation has existed ever since man has spoken — throughout history, interpreters have been used to bridge the communication gap between cultures, religions, and languages.
However, interestingly enough, conference interpreting is a relatively young profession. Since its beginnings at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the history of conference interpreting has been closely linked to the contemporary history of international organizations and institutions.
Historically, consecutive interpretation was used first, and it was not until the Nuremberg Trials (1945-46) that true modern simultaneous interpreting developed. The trials, held in Nuremberg, Germany, aimed to prosecute major war criminals and establish justice for the atrocities committed during the war.
INTERPRETATION AT NUREMBERG
The Nuremberg Trials played a significant role in the development of interpreting as a profession in the field of international law. The trial needed to be conducted simultaneously in English, Russian, German, and French for the American, British, Russian, and French judges and prosecutors and also for the German defendants and their defense counsel.
Quick note! For each language there was a team of six interpreters, twelve translators, and nine stenographers. The proceedings took place in 210 trial days. There was so much material presented during the trial that it is sometimes referred to as “the trial of six million words.”
To address this challenge, simultaneous interpretation was introduced on a large scale for the first time. This method allowed interpreters to translate spoken words almost in real-time, enabling participants who spoke different languages to understand and communicate with each other seamlessly.
The success of simultaneous interpretation at the Nuremberg Trials showcased its effectiveness and laid the groundwork for its continued use in international settings, such as conferences, diplomatic negotiations, and other legal proceedings.
The demand for skilled interpreters after the Nuremberg Trials led to the formalization and professionalization of interpreting as a specialized discipline. The experience gained from these trials contributed to the establishment of training programs and standards for interpreters, helping shape the profession into what it is today.
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