Before I go to the hospital to give birth to my third baby (which should happen in two weeks’ time), I’d like to write about another interesting issue concerning simultaneous interpreters.
Actually, the question is: what’s your favorite ear to listen the speaker with?
As you may know, simultaneous interpreters are basically working with a set of headphones and a microphone and they need to be able to hear both the speaker and themselves.
Why both? because an interpreter needs to monitor him/herself while translating: speaking while listening is not a completely “natural” or “spontaneous” thing. We need to hear our own voice, not just because we have an extremely pleasant voice – as I certainly do 😉 – , but because it is very easy to lose control on our output otherwise.
This is why we have to wear our headphones in such a way to be able to hear the speaker clearly but also our voice/output. What I usually do is wearing one earphone fully on one ear while leaving the other ear totally (or sometimes partially) uncovered.
Ok, but which one?
“Neurolinguistic research over the last decade has tended to show that, because of the cerebral lateralisation of language functions, there may be an advantage in privileging one ear for the earphone. For a right-handed interpreter, there appears to he an advantage in covering the left ear with the earphone, using that ear to listen to the source language. The right ear is left free to listen to the interpreter’s own output in the target language. This rule applies both when you are working into your mother tongue and out of it into a retour language.” [Conference Interpreting Explained – Roderick Jones]
I have to say that although I am right-handed, I usually cover my right ear to listen. I find it more natural as I usually answer the phone with my right ear too (as I pick up the phone with my right hand) and concentrate more easily on what the other person is telling me if I use that ear. But sometimes, when I get tired of listening with the same ear while working, I cover the left one instead – and it works nonetheless.
In the end, I think everyone has to try out different solutions to see which one suits them best.
Sometimes you have to cover both ears if the working environment is noisy or the available headphones volume is too low. Some colleagues cover both ears regardless of the environment they’re working in, therefore I think it is also a matter of habits.
And what’s your favorite ear?