Some people imagine that talking all day is easy money, but that’s not what we are doing.
“Talking all day” would still be saying what you want to say, when and how you want to say it, with time to think about it first, and the choice to tune in or out to what others are saying in response.
Interpreting is a very different process. We have no choice. We must hear and understand every single word spoken by everyone present, and we have no time to form a personal opinion of it, but rather must be thinking constantly about how we are going to reproduce that sentence in another language either as soon as the speaker finishes if we are working consecutively, or while they are speaking if we are working simultaneously.
This uses a completely different part of the brain and uses it very hard. It is difficult to illustrate this but here’s an exercise for you. Sit at home with your watch (it must have a second hand) and the TV remote. Listen to 20 seconds of anything: the news, a comedy show. (20 seconds is the average length of an utterance in normal conversation.) Then mute the TV and repeat the words exactly – no omission, no hesitation. Then turn the sound on for another 20 seconds, and do it again.
See how many times you can do this. Then imagine that the utterances range from one to sixty seconds, that others hold the remote, and you are being paid to do it, for hours at a time, without reacting emotionally or taking sides, watched by a room full of people whose personal or financial interests could be damaged by any mistake you make, and they all think it is easy money.
Oh yeah. Then imagine repeating the words in a different language.
Yeah it’s hard work.