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Understanding the art of interpreting

September 19, 2016


We hear a lot about interpreting and it’s often even confused with written language translation.    Interpreting itself involves the spoken language, which can be delivered in a number of ways.  Following are the most common…


Consecutive Interpreting

The most common mode of interpreting,  This method works really well for small groups or one-on-one conversations, as it facilitates dynamic, direct communication in dialogue form.  This service involves  the interpreter sitting with the client and listening to a speech or statement before rendering the message into the target language after the speaker has paused. Accuracy is enhanced, as the interpreter is able to take notes.  The slower pace of consecutive interpreting  allows for precise interpretations, giving participants more time to make language decisions.  Cultural/linguistic issues and communication barriers can also be addressed and clarified.


This method of interpreting is ideally suited to community settings, interviews (dialogues), HR meetings, court depositions and medical consultations. 


Simultaneous Interpreting

The other common interpreting option is simultaneous interpreting.   This is also sometimes referred to as conference interpreting.  The interpretation is transmitted to the listener during real time as the speech is still being given, with a very slight delay. Simultaneous interpreting is really popular for larger groups in more formal settings (although technical equipment is required). This equipment usually includes headsets and a microphone and transmitter, via a booth.  Audiences will usually be provided with an earpiece and receiver (with adjustable volume).




This method is used for events such as conferences, seminars, conventions, business meetings, lectures, tours, public speaking and so on.  It is more immediate than consecutive, saving time and being less tiring for the audience. Simultaneous interpreting with a duration of more than 30 minutes, should be completed in teams (2 interpreters per language). 


Another interesting interpreting option is known as Whispered’ Simultaneous Interpreting

This is a valid option for a public speaker and a very small number of listeners, with the interpreter speaking in a low voice (‘sotto voce’).  The interpreter sits close to an individual or small group, instead of using technical equipment that allows listeners to be distanced from the interpreter.



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