Pioneering Accessible Simultaneous Interpretation

 | Interpretation best practices

The world is becoming ever more aware of the needs of persons with disabilities; accessibility laws are being reviewed and the demand for sign language interpretation alongside spoken interpretation is on the rise. Now a new discipline is being developed - simultaneous simplification – whereby speakers’ ideas are expressed in more easily understood terms, making it possible for persons with cognitive disabilities to participate more fully in live events such as conferences, community debates and the like. Not surprisingly, Calliope is at the forefront of this initiative, thanks to the work of Gisèle Abazon, Calliope member for Israel, together with a team of specialists in the field of accessibility and AIIC Israel. Their efforts have already borne fruit: simplified interpretation was tested successfully at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest.

Accessible simultaneous translation being provided at Eurovision

When a proposal came from the organisers of the Eurovision Song Contest, who were interested in making Eurovision 2019 more accessible to persons with cognitive disabilities, Gisèle Abazon, Calliope member for Israel, leapt at the chance to show the world the potential of simultaneous simplification.

To simplify is not as simple as it sounds:

To simplify, to shorten, to sum up a message, whether in the same language or in another, is not as simple as it sounds. As many a notable person has remarked, “If I had had more time, I would have written a shorter letter”. It requires a perfect understanding of the original message and is not a matter of substituting one word for another. The message also needs to be adapted since listeners with cognitive disabilities sometimes have difficulty understanding figures, time references, complicated surnames and long sentences. This is where the skills of simultaneous conference interpreters can prove invaluable. Conference interpreters are trained to analyse a speaker’s message and identify major and minor points, links between ideas and nuances, in order to convey that message faithfully and fully in another language, all while adopting the tone used by the speaker. Those analysis skills, coupled with listening and comprehension skills, make them the perfect partners for research in the field of simplification and, subsequently, the right people to provide the service at conference-style events.

Mutually beneficial research:

It was only natural, therefore, that Israel’s professional interpreters readily agreed to collaborate with researchers at the Accessibility Institute of Kyriat Ono Academic College when the Institute decided to set up a training programme for simultaneous simplifiers. Gisèle Abazon and her colleague Myriam Nahon of AIIC Israel are presently working with accessibility experts Ornit Avidan and Professor Shira Yalon on this interesting and forward-looking project. The interpreters are providing their professional knowhow and helping the researchers to train the simplified language specialists. At the same time they are learning a new, simplified language from the cognitive accessibility specialists, which they have already tested at several meetings on disabilities and accessibility. A truly win-win situation.

The initial results:

The first large-scale opportunity to present the results to the world happened thanks to Eurovision, which decided to make the 2019 Song Contest accessible to persons requiring simplified interpretation. “Working in simplified language for Eurovision was a fantastic experience,” says Gisèle. “It allowed us to test out the full potential of this new service, and the outcome was surprisingly good. Thousands of people logged in and the comments from users were altogether extremely positive.”

Knowing the experts:

Calliope is, once again, at the forefront of innovation, ever willing to try out new ideas while maintaining its reputation for quality work under all circumstances. We look forward to offering this service to our clients in the future.

Calliope-Interpreters is a global network of consultant interpreters, passionate about working in partnership with their clients to develop tailor-made language solutions which will ensure the success of multilingual events. Contact us to discuss your requirements.

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