There are several forms of interpretation services that serve to break the language barrier and help people bridge the gap in communicating. The types of services can be divided according to the mode of interpretation – consecutive, simultaneous, chuchotage, or the technology used – over-the-phone interpreting or video remote interpreting. Using American Sign Language to help deaf or hard of hearing people is yet another type of interpretation service offered by language providers.
All of the interpretation services aim to facilitate communication between people who speak different languages. There is no right or wrong type of interpretation, however, there are situations when one or the other form is more appropriate. Since consecutive and simultaneous interpretation are two of the most popular modes, we are going to have a look at how to decide, which option is better.
What is Simultaneous Interpreting?
In order to understand what simultaneous interpreting is, it is a good idea to have a look at the meaning of the words that form the phrase. Simultaneous is an adjective that means occurring, operating or done at the same time. To interpret means to translate orally or into sign language the words of a person speaking a different language. In other words, this mode of interpretation there is no pause or break between the speech in the source language and the interpretation in the target language. The interpreter listens to the speaker and at the same time renders the words in another language. One of the important skills to learn in order to be a good simultaneous interpreter is how to listen to the speaker and interpret their words with only a few seconds delay.
In most of the cases, simultaneous interpreters have access to the speeches or other materials in advance and they can prepare for the event. Quite often, they can also specialize in a certain field – finance, medicine, agriculture and interpret primarily at such events.
Simultaneous interpreters usually interpret into their native language – in other words, they work only in one direction. They listen to foreign language speakers and render their words in their native language. Quite often, simultaneous interpreters work with several foreign languages – there are professionals who can utilize as many as 8 languages. In some cases, when the foreign language they speak is quite rare, simultaneous interpreters interpret in both directions – from the foreign language into their native one and vice versa.
Simultaneous interpreting is a preferred form for large live events such as conferences, workshops, TV competitions, etc. The interpreters are usually sitting in a booth and working in teams of two or three depending on the workload. There can be simultaneous interpretation in several languages depending on the format of the meeting.
Quite often simultaneous interpretation is also used in smaller meetings. It is a good option for business negotiations, for example. It is also the preferred mode in the courtroom or during diplomatic conferences and international conventions. Tours, lectures and presentations are also better served by simultaneous interpreters.
What is Consecutive Interpreting?
The specific way of consecutive interpreting comes from the adjective consecutive, which means following each other continuously. This mode of interpreting means that the interpreter will listen to the speaker and then convey the message into the target language, while the speaker is silent. The pauses the speaker makes may vary in length but in general, the speech should not be longer than 15 minutes (or otherwise the other party may get a bit bored or frustrated). Usually, the speaker will pause after each complete thought or after a couple of sentences and then the interpreter will render it into the foreign language. Consecutive interpreters work in both directions, which means that they swap between their native language and the foreign language(s) they speak. Quite often, they take notes, which facilitates their work and helps them be more precise and diligent.
Consecutive interpretation is used on many occasions, most often during:
- Business meetings when only one foreign language is used
- Parent-teacher meetings
- Client-attorney meetings
- Court depositions
- Interviews and HR meetings
Medical interpreters also use consecutive when interpreting a conversation between a doctor and a patient as this allows them to be more accurate with medicine doses or specific terminology.
Consecutive interpreting is more often used in informal settings than simultaneous interpreting.
How do you Choose the Right Interpreting Mode for your Event?
If you are hosting an event that needs interpreting, you have to decide on which mode you need – simultaneous or consecutive interpreting. The type of the event will influence that decision to a greater extent. As we mentioned above, there are certain events when simultaneous interpreters are the better option.
Your decision, however, may be affected by some other factors, such as:
- The number of foreign languages to be used at the event. If there will be more than two foreign languages, it will be better to choose simultaneous interpreting and secure the necessary number of interpreters along with the required equipment, so that your event runs smoothly.
- The type and size of the audience. If you are going to host a bigger event, simultaneous interpreting might be your best shot. If there will be only 2-3 people out of all attendees who would actually need interpreting perhaps consecutive or even chuchotage (whispering in the ear of the listener) will be more appropriate.
- The language combination and interpreters’ availability. It may turn out that there is a certain language spoken at the event that is not covered by the interpretation services offered around you or for which there is only a consecutive or simultaneous interpreter available (as some professionals prefer using only one of the modes for the job). In such cases, you need to make arrangements according to the interpreters’ availability.
Both consecutive and simultaneous interpreting are a great way to facilitate communication between two parties speaking different languages. Choosing the best service depends on a series of factors and can be based also on your experience as the event organizer or your preferences as a client. The most important factor is to employ only professional interpreters who are trained and experienced and will be able to provide a high-quality service regardless of the mode of interpreting they will be using.