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How to choose an interpreter

If you’re doing business internationally, face-to-face interpretation services can be key to your global success. The primary types of face-to-face interpretations are known as consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation.

To help you decide whether a consecutive interpreter or simultaneous interpreter is the best choice for you, we’ve put together some advice for all business interpretation needs.

What is the difference between simultaneous and consecutive face-to-face interpretation?

Both consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation is performed in near-real time. The interpreter listens to one participant speak, and verbalises their interpretation for other participants. What differs between the two is how this listening and verbalising takes place.

In consecutive interpretation, the interpreter listens to the speaker before they relay that information in a different language. The speaker’s speech is split into segments, usually no larger than a sentence or two, depending on the content of that speech. An interpreter will usually prefer to deal with dense or more technical language in smaller sections. This means there’s often a slight delay between the delivery of the speech in the original language and the interpretation.

In simultaneous interpretation, the interpreter translates what is being said at the same time as the speaker. This means the speaker does not have to pause after each sentence, thus making simultaneous interpretation the least time-consuming and least disruptive of the two.

Usually, a simultaneous interpreter will be in a separate room or booth and their interpretation delivered to the other participants via headsets. This prevents the interpreter from drowning out or distracting the speaker, particularly when not all participants require the translation.

Simultaneous and consecutive interpretations can take place in near real time, however the interpretation is always subject to a slight lag. That’s because interpretation, like translation, is not performed word-for-word. Instead, interpreters must first understand those words in context and phrase their output so that concepts and ideas will make sense in the target language.

Are consecutive or simultaneous methods better for my business?

In face-to-face interpretation, both consecutive and simultaneous are suitable, but the option that is most appropriate depends on the type of meeting or event your business is hosting, and the number of different languages into which the source language must be translated.

One interpretation, few participants

For small business meetings in which an interpretation is to be performed between just two languages, a consecutive interpreter is preferable.

For a small business meeting that requires only one interpretation, the resources required to set up a private room or booth for the simultaneous interpreter are not warranted for so few participants.

One interpretation, many participants

If you’re welcoming a large number of participants to your business event, the additional resources required to set up a simultaneous interpretation are far more warranted. This is the perfect solution if your business is hosting a panel discussion, interpreting the contributions of panelists for a large audience who speak a different language.

Multiple interpretations, few participants

In scenarios where a small number of participants are present but multiple interpretations are required, the time taken for multiple consecutive interpretations to take place is not likely to be feasible. But it remains the case that a simultaneous interpretation might warrant undue resources.

There is an alternative: chuchotage, or whispered interpretation. This works much the same as simultaneous interpretation in that the chuchotage interpreter listens and whispers the interpretation to the participant. The difference is that they can be present in the room; meaning it doesn’t require a private booth or headset.

Multiple interpretations, many participants

On occasions where an interpretation into multiple languages necessary, simultaneous interpreters are far more appropriate. We are familiar with this in the European Parliament, but it may also be the case for your business if you are hosting a large roundtable discussion or conference event.

Simultaneous interpreters can help you to provide interpretations into multiple languages all at the same time. As these interpreters will be working from a private booth or room, there’ll be little distraction (if any) to other participants.

Face-to-face interpretation offers your business more than just language skills

Interpreting is about more than just words; face-to-face interpreters make interpretations more personal. Whether a face-to-face interpreter is present in the room, or if the interpreter is working from a booth with a view of the speaker, they can react to body language and facial expressions in real-time. This helps both them and you communicate more effectively, which is integral to successful business dealings.

At Global Voices, we can provide the highest quality face-to-face interpretations. The speaker’s message will be fully understood, without losing any cultural or emotive significance. This is a guarantee across all of our translation and interpretation services.

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