Types of Interpretation

The target audience of this blog post is meeting organizers who have not worked with interpreters before. There are tricks in every trade; nowadays we all pay more attention to the subtle points. For example, you may have seen people who specify the temperature of the milk when ordering coffee. Let me try to explain step by step which type of interpretation best meets your needs without going into the detailed tricks of the trade.

I will give you the definitions through examples to make it easier to understand. First, let’s assume you have a medical congress or are launching a medical product. In this case, the best type of interpretation for you is simultaneous interpretation. You may ask why. Let me explain the environment for those who have never attended a medical congress or product launch: Hundreds, maybe thousands of listeners listen intently to a lecturer who is making a presentation with PowerPoint slides on stage. Since some of the audience members already speak the language spoken by the presenter, they do not need interpretation and the subject is conveyed fluently and quickly. In this scenario, the interpretation needs to flow with the presentation and follow the sequence of the slides and the rhythm of the speaker fluently without interruption. Simultaneous interpretation is best suited for these types of meetings.

In simultaneous interpretation, conference interpreters work in soundproof booths that look like big boxes; they contain consoles that connect to the sound system. Speeches are transferred directly to the headphones connected to the consoles; interpreters hear the speaker through their headphones. On the console, there are channels for each language; interpreters choose a channel, turn on their microphone and interpret the speech. Participants and speakers who have receivers that work with infrared signals put these headsets on and select a channel to hear the interpretation. Speakers who do not have a good command of all languages spoken in the meeting should also get a receiver so that they can understand questions and comments and respond to them.

Today, simultaneous interpretation has become indispensable for almost all multilingual meetings. All international meetings such as arbitration hearings or trainings have booths somewhere in the meeting room. If you do not want any interruptions or distractions in the meeting, what you need is simultaneous interpretation. An additional piece of information for trivia lovers: Did you know that almost every session of the European Parliament is simultaneously interpreted into 24 languages?

In some meetings, it may not be possible to distribute interpretation units to all participants. For example, if you are going to deliver a speech at a large meeting where most of the attendees do not speak your language or during a groundbreaking ceremony, consecutive interpretation will best meet your needs. In consecutive interpretation, the speaker says a few sentences, then the interpreter who has taken notes while the speaker was speaking interprets the message. Ideally, the speaker should pause after a few sentences or a paragraph and wait for the interpretation. However, a conference interpreter is able to convey in full even a 6-7 minute speech after taking notes. Nevertheless, we always advise speakers to stop after a short paragraph to allow for interpretation.

There may be technical reasons to prefer consecutive interpretation. For example, press conferences, arbitration hearings or interviews where you are unable to make the technical arrangements for simultaneous interpretation… However, always remember that consecutive interpretation in more than one language can be extremely difficult and boring for both the participants and the speakers. So try to avoid consecutive interpretation in more than one language at all costs!

When you have site inspections or business visits, consecutive interpretation will be ideal during bilateral talks. In this mode, the conference interpreter accompanies the delegation or the official, helps them understand the content of documents and interprets the conversation. Conference interpreters also use this technique in diplomatic visits, international meetings and high level bilateral meetings. Such meetings require interpreters who are well-versed in diplomatic protocol and who have strong background knowledge and an affinity for this type of work.

It is impossible to cover all meeting types and needs in a short blog post. However, you can rest assured that we always do our best to find the ideal solution for your needs. We will be happy to develop a tailor-made solution for you since we have extensive experience in setups which may be novel for you. We put years of experience, specialization and work at your disposal. Do not panic, do not worry; tell us what you need, we will find the best solution for you!

Verda Kıvrak

Chairperson and Conference Interpreter