Interpretation meets Neuroscience: Do all interpreters´ brain work the same way?
By conducting a series of experiments with a sample of professional interpreters, this work shows that the neural functions involved in high-performance consecutive interpreting are significantly different from those required in professional simultaneous interpreting.
While we find that being proficient in both languages is indeed a necessary condition to score as a respectable interpreter of any kind, our results show that high-performance simultaneous interpretation is strongly based on the interpreter’s ability to transfer and decode information quickly and effectively in the network of brain areas that process source and target language, without necessarily having to activate the neural function related to listening comprehension of the input. By contrast, high-performance in consecutive interpretation is closely related to the ability to assimilate listening comprehension into the transfer function between languages. Relying on their transcoding capacity, interpreters with superior listening comprehension skills are those who also show better performance in consecutive interpreting.
We believe that this study may serve as a tool for early identification of student interpreters’ listening skills, for curriculum design of active listening development, and for further customization of consecutive training strategies.