The Archway, Issue 4: Interpreting Types

There are many situations for which interpreters might be needed: legal meetings, medical appointments, parent/teacher conferences, and other meetings are just a few examples of venues interpreters might find themselves in. Regardless of the specific situation, there are two main forms of interpretation for live interpreters.

Consecutive interpreting is the most common form of live interpretation. This is a direct back and forth, with one speaker saying a few lines, the interpreter interpreting what was just said, and then a speaker saying a few more lines, followed by interpretation, and so on and so on. This is the kind of interpretation used in most one-on-one meetings: medical appointments, teachers meeting with parents, meetings between a service provider and his/her client, etc. The goal in these situations is for the interpreter to make the communicating parties feel like they are speaking directly to each other: the interpreter strives to mirror the same tone and language level of the speaker when they interpret the lines.

Simultaneous interpreting is less common, but just as important. This is when the interpreter provides a running interpretation of what’s being said, even as the speaker is still speaking. Oftentimes this involves the interpreter using a headset, which connects him/her with both the speaker and the audience needing interpretation (who are also typically wearing headsets). This type of interpretation is most common when there is a single speaker addressing a large group, often of folks who do not all need interpretation: business conferences, seminars, group presentations, political speeches, etc. This is also the form of interpreting commonly used in court trials, as attorneys present their cases. Because of the strain of thinking in one language and speaking in a different language at once, many simultaneous interpreting sessions require two interpreters, to allow the speakers to switch back and forth every half hour or so.

Knowing what kind of interpretation is needed for your session is important for helping us best serve your language needs! If you aren’t sure what form you’ll need for your session, give us a call and we’ll be happy to work out what format would serve you best.


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