Glimpses Into the History of Interlingual Simultaneous Theater Interpreting in Estonia




simultaneous theater interpreting, sign language theater interpreting, interpreter-mediated performance, historical research


This paper examines the practice of simultaneous interpretation of theater performances, in particular between Estonian and Russian, in Estonia over 70 years. This type of interpreting has not received much scholarly attention; rather, studies have mostly focused on the sign language interpretation of theater performances for the deaf community. I conducted interdisciplinary historical research relying on the oral history method to help preserve the fast-disappearing oral heritage of theater interpreting. This paper distinguishes between two periods in theater interpreting in Estonia, as determined by two drastically different sociopolitical periods in Estonia’s history. Drawing upon a total of 88 interviews with interpreters, people who recruited interpreters, and audience members, I identified and interviewed a total of 15 theater interpreters. I also analysed newspaper articles and performance schedules, which usually yielded single-word mentions of interpretation having taken place. This paper examines answers to the questions of who interpreted what, how, and when, and reaches the conclusion that theater interpreting can be a tool to bridge a gap between two communities as well as to facilitate integration in the same cultural space.


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Author Biography

Karin Sibul, University of Tartu

Dr. Karin Sibul is an interpreter researcher, educator and a practicing conference and diplomatic interpreter. She has taught courses on diplomatic interpreting and history of interpreting as well as on translation of economic and financial texts at the University of Tartu and Tallinn City University, Estonia. She has been a moderator at ten national conferences focusing on different aspects of interpreting. Her research fields are the history of interpreting in Estonia, theatre interpreting and the analysis of symbolic capital in the diachronic development of interpreting in independent Estonia.





How to Cite

Sibul, K. (2020). Glimpses Into the History of Interlingual Simultaneous Theater Interpreting in Estonia. Journal of Audiovisual Translation, 3(2), 170–185.



Special Issue: November 2020