In his novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Mark Twain wrote
Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.
A little bit of hyperbole there, but Twain has a point. So how do we conference interpreters handle the wait for the verb? We employ three strategies:
- Temporizing: Lean back and give the fish plenty of slack before you reel her in. So instead of staying half a dozen words behind the speaker, increase the distance to a dozen, two dozen or even more. If you can afford the luxury of waiting, you'll get the verb right the first time when it finally comes. Unfortunately, the little box in your brain labeled "ultra-short-term memory" can only hold so much. After seven seconds (give or take, depending on how much information is packed into these seconds) the contents of that little box start degrading rapidly.
- Anticipation: This sounds spooky, almost like mind-reading, because instead of waiting you go right ahead and say the speaker's thought before she has expressed it. However, there are a number of heuristics that you can employ, based on what you know of the subject matter, what was said before, non-verbal clues, experience, and intuition.
- Fast footwork: Inevitably you will manoeuver yourself into a tight spot and then you need to extricate yourself. The simplest way is to correct yourself in mid-sentence. Ordinary people, and even experienced lecturers, misspeak and then correct themselves in mid-sentence. It's not unusual. So if you as the interpreter goof up, then take your mistakes in stride and correct them immediately. The people with headphones on listening to you down on the floor won't even notice as long as you maintain a competent, assured tone throughout.
Finally a little nitpick. It's called "simultaneous", not synchronous, interpreting -- although from my remarks above, I hope it's clear that an interpreter is rarely simultaneous, but either a short distance behind, a step ahead, or (hopefully not too often) scrambling to get back on track!