interpreters alternate quickly between the different cognitive tasks. It would be useful to look at the following paragraph quoted from Chernov (2004, p. 11) where the roots of such doubt have been summarized:
In 1963 Z. Kochkina, a Russian psychologist, expressed doubts as to whether SI is actually simultaneous (with concurrent listening and speaking), based on the then widely-held belief in psychology that the interpreter’s attention could not be simultaneously directed to these two distinct processes. On the basis of an experiment Kochkina postulated that SI only seems to be ‘simultaneous’, and that ‘simultaneity’ is in fact only attained ‘through (1) contraction of the message and (2) a faster rate of the interpreter’s speech as compared with the speaker’ (1963: 109). Some other researchers at that time also suggested that interpreters must try to overcome the difficulty of concurrent listening and speaking by taking maximum advantage of pauses in the speaker’s discourse to say their piece (Goldman-Eisler 1968; Barik 1973), thus casting doubt on the very fact of simultaneity of listening and speaking in SI.
The basic idea is that the interpreter is most of the time taking the most out of the pauses naturally existing in the source language speech to avoid the unbearable strain imposed by the simultaneity of the two tasks of speaking and listening. Goldman-Eisler (1968, p. 128, cited in Lambert, 2004, p. 296) says:
The intermittent silence between chunks of speech in the speaker’s utterance is a very valuable commodity for the simultaneous interpreter, for the more of his own output he can crowd into his source’s pause, the more time he has to listen without interference from his own output.
On the other hand, Lee (1999, cited in Kim, 2006, p. 248) “proved through machine analysis that in the case of English-Korean simultaneous interpretation, the interpreter handles listening and speaking simultaneously during more than 60 percent of the speech.” Chernov (2004, p. 14), too, having elaborated on the types of experiment undertaken to shed light on this issue, observes “precise investigations using the then state-of-the-art equipment have demonstrated that SI is indeed simultaneous in the sense that perceptual and production processes are concurrent.” (my emphasis)
2.3.1 Gile’s Effort Model of SI
One of the best models proposed to date, which very well captures all the components of SI, is Gile’s ‘effort model’ of simultaneous interpreting. Figure 2.1 (adopted from Gile, 2009, p. 168) summarizes his view of the process of SI.
Figure 2.1 Gile’s Effort Model of SI
It should be remembered, however, that the mathematical signs used here are not used in their pure mathematical sense. For example, the sign for equality (=) does not really mean ‘equals’ but rather ‘involves’. As the figure shows, the task of interpreting involves a number of efforts: the first of these is the listening and analysis effort. This is the amount of effort needed to analyze the linguistic input in order to comprehend it. The second is the memory effort, i.e. the information analyzed and comprehended needs to be stored in the short-term memory so that it can be produced subsequently. The third effort is the production effort, which means that the speaker has to spend some mental effort to produce the rendering and also monitor his own speech. These can be considered as the core efforts involved. In addition to these, there is also a coordination effort required; this is the mental effort needed to coordinate the core efforts (the timing, the allocation of processing capacity, etc.).
Taking all these mental efforts into consideration makes it clear why simultaneous interpreting is considered by many scholars in the field to be such a demanding task (see Lambert, 1988; Daró, 1994; Fabbro & Gran, 1994; Klonowicz, 1994; Lambert, 1994; Gile, 1995; Déjean Le Féal, 1997; Al-Khanji et al., 2000; Hamers et al., 2002; Lee, 2002; Mizuno, 2005; Pöchhacker, 2005; Seeber & Zelger, 2007). The mental resources required for SI are described in cognitive psychology in terms of ‘processing capacity’. Figure 2.2 (adopted from Gile, 2009, p. 169) shows the processing capacity required for SI.
TR = LR + MR + PR + CR
Figure 2.2 Processing Capacity Requirements for SI
In this equation, TR stands for the total processing capacity requirements for SI, LR for the processing capacity requirements for Listening Effort, MR for the processing capacity requirements for Memory Effort, PR for the processing capacity requirements for Production Effort, and finally CR for the processing capacity requirements for Coordination Effort.
It is rightly assumed in cognitive psychology that the processing capacity an individual has at their disposal at a certain point in time is without a doubt limited. “Since SI is characterized by an almost permanent temporal overlap of language comprehension and language-production processes” (Moser-Mercer 1997, as quoted in Lee, 2011, p. 151), “there are inherent limitations to the capacity of the interpreter, no matter how expert and versatile” (Massaro and Shlesinger 1997, as cited in Lee, 2011, p. 151). On the other hand, a simultaneous interpreter needs to have available enough mental resources to allocate to these cognitive tasks (listening, memory, production, and coordination). Therefore, it is easy to see that if the total amount of the processing capacity required exceeds the total amount of processing capacity available to the interpreter, failure is doomed to occur. This is reflected in the following observations quoted in Lee (2011, p. 152):
Christoffels and de Groot (2004) pointed out that both the simultaneity of comprehension and production and the transformation component are sources of cognitive complexity in SI. Consequently, even the most successful professionals cannot sustain this level of performance if extreme conditions prevail for too long (Moser-Mercer 2000/2001).
This, however, is not the only condition to be met. There are cases in which the total capacity required is smaller than the total capacity available, and yet problems do arise. This can be attributed to “inappropriate allocation of available processing capacity between Efforts” (Gile, 2009, p. 170). For example, if the interpreter allocates too much attention to the production of a previously heard segment of the ST, he may not be able to direct enough attention to comprehension of the incoming segment of the message and thus a section of the message will go un-interpreted or mis-interpreted. Consequently, not only is it necessary that the total processing capacity required be less than the total processing capacity available, but also it is a must that the processing capacity required for each of the efforts be less than the processing capacity allocated to it. When all these conditions are met, the interpretation can go on smoothly. Figure 2.3 (adopted from Gile, 2009, p. 170) shows these necessary conditions.
Condition 1 shows that the total processing capacity required must be equal to or smaller than the total processing capacity available. Condition 2 indicates that the processing capacity required for the listening effort must be equal to or smaller than the processing capacity available for it. Conditions 3 to 5 show the same thing for each of the other efforts (memory, production, and coordination).
(1) TR ≤ TA
(2) LR ≤ LA
(3) MR ≤ MA
(4) PR ≤ PA
(5) CR ≤ CA
Figure 2.3 Necessary Conditions for SI
2.3.2 Horizontal vs. Vertical Approa
Although there is a general agreement among theorists as to the main components of interpreting, i.e. comprehension, reformulation, and production, there are differing views on how and in what order these operations take place. These views can be categorized under two main approaches: the ‘vertical’ approach in contrast with the ‘horizontal’ approach. Below, we will quickly review the main ideas embedded in these two perspectives.
The vertical approach is also known as the meaning-based perspective. According to this approach, the interpreter retains the meaning of information chunks during comprehension in order to reformulate and to produce it in the TL (Fabbro & Gran, 1994). The input is analyzed and comprehended like in normal conditions of listening and comprehension. The interpreter comprehends the message fully, extracts the meaning from it (Seleskovitch’s deverbalization), and then gives expression to it in the TL. Fabbro and Gran (1994, p. 297) summarize this approach as follows:
With the meaning-based translation strategy, the interpreter retains sentences or at least brief information chunks by stripping them of their superficial linguistic form, whereas the meaning is recoded in the TL as accurately as possible. There is no need for the interpreter to retain the surface structure of the SL-text in his/her verbal short-term memory, though he/she has to understand the deep structure of it, in order to render its meaning in the TL. Adopting this translating procedure, the interpreter is generally less exposed to syntactic or lexical interferences between his working languages and can therefore choose more appropriate linguistic expressions in the TL.
The vertical approach, as the above explanations show, is in complete agreement with the concept of deverbalization. It entails that the comprehension happens first, and is then followed by reformulation (the whole process is sequential rather than simultaneous).
On the other hand, there is an opposing perspective called the horizontal approach. It is also known as the