Some people have a natural gift for it. We used to hold an annual schools visit day at the University of Ottawa, when the School of Translation and Interpretation would try to give high school students a taste of what our work was like. One of the highlights was when we sat them in the interpretation lab and put them through them an exercise in simultaneous and consecutive. One year, a 15-year-old girl with no training or experience amazed me by giving a perfect consecutive rendition of an uninterrupted three-minute speech, a test usually performed by advanced students of the School.
Now Lionel Dersot has something interesting to say about consecutive interpreting ability. For the full account, go to his blog via the Liaison Interpreter in Japan link on the right of this page.
Here’s the source passage:
"If 100% of the population would eat fish at least once per week as recommended, there would be a need for an additional 148,380 tons of finished products, that is about twice as much in terms of raw catches."And Lionel’s commentary (with my emphasis):
“With this kind of mathematics like a formula pattern of speech where the subject and vocabulary are not a major barrier for interpreting, only the logical minded students showed strong mastery. Real strong. I was stunned by the rendering and weaving in action (the concentration, some with eyes almost closed) of speech you don't usually deliver around the coffee machine. They were translating into Japanese, their A [first] language. None of them are professional interpreters, nor do they aim at it. Some are requested from time to time to deliver interpretation - consecutive - at work. The logical, strong analytical mind has an edge in such situations.”Incidentally, the post in question contains a neat example of the kind of notes that consecutive interpreters take and the usefulness of Chinese characters for them if you happen to know Chinese or Japanese.
Incidentally too, Lionel elsewhere refers to “the majority of untrained interpreters who practice on the planet without the credentials,” and says, “I am one of them and feel closer to a terp in a theater of war than to an AIIC member.” Well yes, so long as you understand that he rates at very least as an Advanced Native Interpreter. However, long professional experience constitutes on-the-job training and there’s no doubt he’s actually an Expert Interpreter.
AIIC: International Association of Conference Interpreters. The acronym derives from its French name, Association Internationale de Interprètes de Conférence, because the organisation was founded in Paris in 1953 and the founders were French speakers.
Lionel Dersot. The logical mind. The Liaison Interpreter blog, August 23, 2011.