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Should You Use Simultaneous or Consecutive Interpreting?

By Nicole at Accredited Language
Posted on Monday, January 25, 2010
Category: Interpreting

speech bubble interpretingFrom simultaneous to telephonic to consecutive, interpreting services exist in many forms and formats.

But how do you know which style of interpreting is right for your event or meeting?

If you’re communicating with international clients, arranging a meeting with a contact from another country, or attending a conference without speaking the primary language, you need an interpreter.

Different situations require different interpreting formats, the most common of which are simultaneous and consecutive interpreting.

Check out the benefits of these forms of interpreting, and when to use them:

When to Use Consecutive Interpreting

Consecutive interpreting works best for small groups or one-on-one conversations. The interpreter waits until the speaker is finished before relaying the message in the listener’s language, and vice versa.

This type of interpreting is a popular option during both formal and informal occasions. These include:

  • Interviews
  • HR meetings
  • Parent-teacher conferences
  • Court depositions
  • Client-attorney meetings
  • Medical consultations

Consecutive interpreting has the advantage of being more like a conversation, with both parties able to speak uninterrupted by an interpreter. However, it usually takes about twice the amount of time since the interpreter has to wait until each party finishes speaking before beginning the interpretation – in essence doubling the conversation time.

When to Use Simultaneous Interpreting

In simultaneous interpreting, also known as conference interpreting, the interpretation is transmitted to listeners in real time while the original speech is still in progress.

Simultaneous interpreting is primarily used in formal or large group settings, where one person is speaking in front of an audience, rather than in conversational environments. These events can include:

  • Diplomatic conferences
  • International conventions
  • Business or board meetings
  • Training sessions
  • Courtrooms
  • Lectures and presentations
  • Tours

This type of interpreting service frequently requires audiovisual equipment, such as wireless receivers, headsets and microphones, to relay messages quickly to a large audience.

More intimate gatherings might be better served by consecutive interpreting.

Other Interpreting Options

Simultaneous and consecutive interpreting are effective solutions for most face-to-face or conference settings. But what if you’re communicating with someone over the phone, or have an urgent deadline with no time to arrange for an on-site interpreter?

Telephonic interpreting helps solve these dilemmas, with an interpreter on the line to relay messages back and forth after they have been said. This interpreting method, similar to consecutive interpreting, is ideal for conference calls and scheduling appointments with international contacts.

But telephonic interpreting has its drawbacks. Without being able to see the speakers, interpreters may miss the context and expressions of the speaker, which often contribute to the overall meaning of the message. However, video conferencing can often mitigate this issue.

One last option is machine interpreting, though it is not widely available. Also, as it is relatively new technology, there are still plenty of kinks to be worked out.

Whether you choose simultaneous, telephonic or consecutive interpreting, you can find the right interpreting format that fits all your needs — and makes your message matter in any language.

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