WIRED chat to conference interpreter Barry Slaughter Olsen who walks us through how real-time translation happens in this fascinating video. We’ve all seen translators whispering away at news conferences and international events. But what are they really saying?

Here, we learn how translators explain what is being said. We find out how they convey different emotions, funny jokes and angry outbursts. It’s more complicated than you might think and can at times be extremely difficult. What’s even more interesting is that these translations can be vitally important. Just one mistake can cause world leaders to fundamentally misunderstand each other.

The world of translation is full of tricks and techniques that allow people to truly convey what is really being said. Translators work hard to make sure not a single word is missed, whilst also translating tricky slang and colloquialisms. But, despite everything, mistakes can be made and problems can arise. There have been times where translators have said the wrong thing and have even passed out from tiredness! This video also takes a look at what can go wrong and talks about famous instances where things didn’t go to plan…


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