The Voice of the Interpreter

The voice of the interpreter

Interpreting is a complex task which requires mastering many skills. It is essential to know the languages and cultures that are connected, but it is also essential to understand how to reflect in our voice what is said through words.

To acquire or improve these skills, at the Colegio de Traductores Públicos de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires we had the honour of receiving Patricia Arizu, who developed the following agenda in a very interactive session: 

  • Interpretation from its origins in the face of the challenges of the 21st century
  • The interpreter as speaker
  • Simultaneous and consecutive translation
  • The connection between interpretation and a theatre performance:
    • Physical action (Stanislavski)
    • The external world (Mamet)
    • The circles of attention (Rodenburg)
    • Warm-up physical exercises for interpretation work
    • How we find our voice
    • Physical and mental techniques for coping with public speaker challenges

For almost two hours, Patsy guided us through a path of examples, exercises, and connections to acting.

Here are some of the conclusions drawn from her masterful presentation:

  • Of the resources used by the interpreter, the voice is the only one that will always allow us to differentiate ourselves from the machines and oral translation engines.
  • The voice requires as much preparation and training as the skills inherent in interpreting.
  • Our voice is the only thing that allows participants to understand what is being said.
  • Intonation and emphasis allow us to convey not only words and content but also emotions and metalanguage.
  • When something is clearly put into words a thought is transmitted.

The session ended with several body and vocal production exercises that must be done every time you enter a booth. In short, it was delicious to listen to Patsy’s VOICE for two hours. 


Patricia Arizu (A-EN, ES, C-FR) was Director of the Interpretation Service of the U.S. Department of State until 2014. In such a capacity, she supervised staff interpreters and free-lancers in the White House and other agencies of the Executive Branch of Government in more than eighty languages. She was one of the first members of HINTS (Heads of Interpreting Services). She has more than forty years of  experience as an interpreter.  As an actress, she is now dedicated to theatre performances in New York and  London. She also works as a consultant on issues related to  interpretation, the use of the voice and presentation techniques.

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