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Simultaneous Interpretation vs Consecutive Interpretation

When it comes to interpreting, there are two main types: simultaneous interpretation and consecutive interpretation.

Simultaneous vs consecutive interpretation

Although both are methods of interpreting a message from one language to another, there are significant differences between the two. In this blog post, we will explore the difference between each of them, and which one is best for you.

Simultaneous Interpretation:

Simultaneous Interpretation

Simultaneous interpretation is when the interpreter translates the speaker's words into the target language in real-time, as the speaker is speaking. The interpreter usually sits in a soundproof booth, wearing a headset, and speaks into an interpreter desk (specialised hardware equipped with a microphone), which then transmits their interpretation to the listeners through headsets. This type of interpretation is often used for large events, such as conferences or presentations, where the speaker addresses a large audience.

The primary advantage of simultaneous interpretation is that it allows for a smooth flow of communication without disrupting the speaker's pace. It also allows for multiple languages to be used at the same time, so everyone can understand the message. The disadvantage of simultaneous interpretation is that it requires a high level of skill and concentration from the interpreter, as they must be able to keep up with the speaker in real-time. Typically, conference interpreters have a combination of extensive work practice and professional development in their language.

Consecutive Interpretation:

Consecutive Interpreters working

Consecutive interpretation is when the interpreter listens to the speaker and takes notes, then interprets the message into the target language after the speaker has finished speaking. In this method, the speaker and interpreter take turns speaking, and the interpreter may interrupt the speaker to ask for clarification or additional information.

Consecutive interpretation is often used for smaller meetings, negotiations, and interviews.

The advantage of consecutive interpretation is that it allows for a more personal interaction between the speaker and the interpreter, which can facilitate better communication. It also allows for more nuanced interpretation, as the interpreter has time to analyse and understand the speaker's message before translating it. The disadvantage of consecutive interpretation is that it can be very time-consuming (twice as long), as it requires the speaker and interpreter to take turns speaking. In addition, any audience listening will dis-engage while waiting for the interpreter to deliver in their language. For this reason, when applied to a large audience, it is only suitable for the shortest of presentations (under 5 minutes).

Which one to choose?

The choice between simultaneous and consecutive interpretation depends on the situation and the needs of the participants. Simultaneous interpretation is best suited for large events, where a smooth flow of communication is necessary, while consecutive interpretation is ideal for smaller meetings, where a more personal interaction is required.

In conclusion, both simultaneous and consecutive interpretation have their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between the two depends on the specific needs of the participants. A skilled interpreter must have expertise in both methods and be able to adapt to the situation and provide high-quality interpretation to ensure effective communication.

Need advice on adding interpretation to your next event? Reach out to one of our technical producers.


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