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At home in several languages

Beim Simultandolmetschen arbeitet Leonie Gohl meist in einer schallisolierten Kabine.
Foto: Alex Becker

Conference interpreter and translator

At home in several languages

Leonie Gohl had finished high school and spent a few months in Italy when she discovered her passion for the country’s language and culture. Today, she is 30 years old, lives in Stuttgart and works as a freelance conference interpreter and translator. Switching among Italian, English and German has become second nature to her.

The texts Leonie Gohl is asked to translate range from personal documents to websites, marketing materials and fact sheets. Her customers include individuals and companies. “Depending on the size of the project, I work with colleagues and I always have my work proofread.” As a conference interpreter, Leonie is contracted to work at expert conferences, speeches, business negotiations and company tours. “I feel at home in both my professions.”

Interpreting every occasion

Ein Porträt-Foto von Leonie Gohl

Leonie Gohl

Foto: Lukas Frontzek

Most of Leonie’s interpreting work is simultaneous or consecutive. She explains: “We refer to simultaneous interpreting when we translate the words right after they have been said. Simultaneous interpreters sit in sound-insulated booths from where the translated speech is transmitted to the audience’s headphones. This technology has become the standard for most multi-language conferences and events that last all day.” Leonie works predominantly as part of a team. “Simultaneous interpreting is extremely demanding and requires the utmost concentration.” This is why at least two interpreters should be present and take turns every 20 to 30 minutes.

Consecutive interpreting is used for shorter, mostly festive occasions, for example, speeches at ceremonies, banquets or inaugurations. Leonie usually stands next to the speaker, who speaks for some time and then gives her the time to translate that part of the speech. The length of the parts can vary.

Liaison interpreting is the third variation and is done at bilateral negotiations and meetings. Leonie says: “I sit at the table during a business negotiation and interpret short sections into either language.”

Thorough preparation and continuous training

Simultaneous, consecutive and liaison interpreters need a lot of time to prepare. To be able to transfer the speakers’ words into another language within seconds, Leonie has to familiarize herself substantially with the topics and learn the technical terms. Ideally customers provide her with useful information in advance, for example, on a product or the company. At symposiums, when Leonie works for various speakers, she has to adjust to every speaker individually and know what they want to communicate: “When I interpret, I become the speaker’s voice.”

For her interpretation and translation work, Leonie has to develop her knowledge continuously. “Languages are living things and change all the time. We interpreters have to know about intercultural matters and the cultural characteristics to be able to understand the speaker’s intention and transfer the meaning to the other language. Translators have to grasp new fields every day and do a lot of research. Stamina and accuracy are two of the characteristics you need for this job.”

To stay up-to-date, Leonie travels regularly to countries in which her work languages are spoken and reads newspapers in Italian and in English. Also, she continuously has to extend her German skills to be able to match speakers’ styles and expressiveness.

A predilection for foreign languages

“I have always been fascinated by languages,” Leonie says. Therefore, it was natural that after high school she would explore a language and culture unknown to her at the time. “Italian courses were not offered at my high school, so I decided to learn the language in the country.”

In 2007, Leonie started a bachelor course in translation sciences at Heidelberg University and chose Italian as her major and English as her minor. After that, she completed a master course in conference interpreting. She began working while she was still in university and became a freelancer in 2013.

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abi>> 06.11.2017