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Guide to Simultaneous vs Consecutive Interpretation

Whether you’re organizing a deposition, arbitration, or traveling internationally for a business meeting, you may need an interpreter. There are two different types of interpretation, consecutive and simultaneous. At Planet Depos, we provide both styles of interpretation. Use this guide to discover the right type of interpretation for your situation.

What is interpretation?

Interpretation is conducted by an interpreter, a person who translates spoken language to another language. In other words, they must understand and memorize content in the original language and reproduce the statements into a second language. Along with directly interpreting what is said, interpreters must use professionalism and diplomacy to accurately relay the tone and emotion of the speaker. Interpretation may be done in person, over the phone, or using video conferencing software.

When should I use an interpreter?

Even if you are conversationally fluent in a language, you should hire a qualified interpreter for long, technical conversations. Language is spoken at a rate ranging from 125 to 230 words per minute. With a conversational fluency, you may struggle to keep up or translate technical phrases. In contrast, professional interpreters deliver impartial and accurate interpretations.

Specialized Interpreters

Business Interpreters

If you are conducting in person meetings or lecturing about new products internationally, you want a business interpreter with experience in your industry. Some interpreters spend their entire careers translating for a specific industry, so they understand that industry’s unique jargon.

Learn how to select qualified interpreters for business meetings.

Legal Interpreters

Legal interpreters specialize in translating legal proceedings including court cases, depositions, and arbitrations. They are responsible for making all the information spoken in the legal proceedings accessible to people with limited knowledge of the language. Legal interpreters understand legal terminology and follow a strict code of ethics.

What is consecutive interpretation?

Consecutive interpretation is commonly used in small meetings and legal proceedings, including arbitrations, depositions, hearings, and trials. In this real-time interpretation method, the speaker pauses after every few sentences and allows the interpreter to translate.

A helpful tool for consecutive interpretation is reading the manuscript produced by a court reporter. This helps the interpreter translate the proceedings more quickly and accurately than if they could only rely on their own notes for interpretation.

What is simultaneous interpretation?

While in consecutive interpretation the interpreter translates once the speaker stops speaking, in simultaneous interpreting the interpreter translates the while the speaker is talking. Since this type of translation occurs in real-time, the interpreter must quickly digest what the speaker is saying and immediately translates it into another language.

Simultaneous interpretation is usually used in non-legal proceedings, such as in at the European Union, the United Nations, and other conferences where multiple languages are used. At these events, simultaneous interpreters work in soundproof booths with a group of translators. The speaker uses a microphone that transports the sound to the interpreter. The interpreters then translate the language simultaneously. The attendees at the meeting can select the language they want on their listening device, so they can hear the translation in their language.

Learn useful tips for interpretation preparation and learn how to swear in an interpreter.


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