Selecting The Ideal Mode Of Interpretation For Your Meeting
When planning a meeting or event with multilingual participants, it is important to determine the best way to ensure that all participants can understand what you are saying. To this end, there are several different types or styles of professional interpretation. Two of the most widely used are simultaneous and consecutive interpreting. It’s useful to understand their different purposes because each one lends itself to specific scenarios.
When in doubt, get in touch with a professional language services provider that will work with you to determine which interpretive services make the most sense for your needs and budget.
Do you need simultaneous or consecutive interpretation?
There are several questions to review before determining whether simultaneous or consecutive interpreter is best for your purpose. First, let’s define the terms.
Simultaneous interpretation. This is the type you may have seen on TV or online while watching a global conference. In fact, it is often referred to as “UN-style interpreting”, or “real-time translation”. This type of interpretation ensures the most efficient delivery of the message-interpretation-comprehension-response process.
For simultaneous interpreting, both the interpreters and relevant audience members are equipped with headsets and microphones. If the conference is multilingual, every audience member may be connected to the audio feed from separate interpreters. That way, everyone hears the speaker’s words in real time, without any delay, via the interpretation provided by their respective simultaneous interpreters.
This style of interpreting is very demanding on interpreters because “real time” exchanges demand relentless attention to detail and rapid-fire brain processing – and that is before taking subject matter into the equation. Emotionally sensitive or technically complex materials can increase interpreter fatigue.
Thus, longer events may require the use of an interpreter team so that the interpreters can be relieved at reasonable intervals. This gives their brains a rest and ensures the interpretation is as accurate and error-free as possible.
A subset of simultaneous interpretation is called chuchotage, or “whisper interpretation”, whereby the interpreter will simultaneously interpret for only one to two delegates. This obviously requires a small number of people in the room in order to ensure sound quality for the interpreter, and in order to minimize disruption to those not using the interpreter.
Things to note about simultaneous interpretation:
- A team is required for any meeting lasting more than 30 minutes;
- It requires specialized audio equipment; there must be space available to set up a soundproof booth, and a technician with special skills onsite;
- It is best for larger events where a personal or intimate connection is less relevant.
Consecutive interpretation. Consecutive interpretation is normally used in smaller and more intimate settings, or in situations where a personal connection or sense of trust is more essential to the outcome. With consecutive interpreting, you speak, and then our interpreter, who is standing nearby, taking notes, repeats what you said to the listener(s). In turn, that person may have a question or response, which is then interpreted back to the the original speaker, similar to a regular conversation or discourse.
Most of the time, consecutive interpretation moves at a slower pace because the interpreter must wait for the speaker to finish a thought or sentence before beginning to interpret. This can make the process a bit tedious for larger-scale conferences or presentations, where audience attention is imperative. This is why consecutive interpretation is often used for meetings between heads of state or round-table business negotiations when protocol also plays a major role. In contrast to simultaneous interpretation, with consecutive interpreting, there is no overlap. Rather, it entails a lot of back and forth, making the whole process longer, while allowing for much more face-to-face, personal communication.
Things to note about consecutive interpretation:
- There is no additional equipment required, leading to cost savings;
- It is ideal for smaller or more intimate gatherings;
- In some cases it can be conducted with a single interpreter and used in a variety of settings.
How to determine which mode of interpretation is best for your needs
Here are some key questions that will help you determine whether your company or scenario would be best served by a simultaneous or consecutive interpreter:
- Does our event include the words conference, convention, seminar or summit?
If so, simultaneous interpretation is probably the way to go. Whenever you have a large audience and a fair amount of information to disseminate, you want the message to flow as efficiently as possible. This requires a certain amount of timeliness of delivery that may not be possible with consecutive interpretation.
- How many target languages are there in the group?
Even in a larger group, consecutive interpretation can work, depending on the situation. The addition of two or more target languages, however, can make this difficult. If there will be more than one interpreted language in a room, background noise becomes a distracting issue. In this case, you will want to consider the use of professional audio equipment at the very least, and may still decide simultaneous interpreters will be more useful.
- Is the interpreted content more personal or sensitive in nature?
There is no doubt that consecutive interpretation is the preferred mode in any situation where the content being interpreted is more personal or sensitive in nature. Sitting face-to-face with the interpreter creates a more personal connection, one that is often preferred in scenarios involving the medical or legal realms, HR issues, interviews, negotiations, and so on.
Not sure which type of professional interpretation you need for your next event? Contact CCA and we’ll be happy to help you decide. The ultimate goal is to have “just enough and no more” so we’ll never upsell you on services or equipment rentals that aren’t necessary.