Simultaneous or consecutive interpretation? Do you know the difference and how to choose what you need for your project?
Simultaneous interpreters usually sit in a sound booth where they can hear the speaker through their headphones. As the speaker talks, the interpreters listen to the speaker and speak the second language into a microphone which transmits their words wirelessly to headsets that audience members wear. It's easy to accommodate more than one interpreted language at an event, with the audience members able to choose which language they want to listen to.
One of the major benefits of using simultaneous interpreters is that the event is not interrupted for the interpretation. In fact, audience members who speak the same language as the presenter may not even realize that the event is being interpreted. Additionally, those audience members who are listening to the interpretation can follow along with the speaker's gestures and facial expressions in real time.
Consecutive interpreters are often on stage with the speaker, or if it's a small event, they sit at the table. They listen to what the speaker says, and then at the end of a sentence or paragraph, they interpret it for the audience. One of the benefits of consecutive interpretation is that because the interpreter has time to listen to the speaker's complete thought, the interpretation is often more accurate than with simultaneous interpretation, where the information flows at a much faster rate. The downside to consecutive interpretation is that it can significantly increase the time of the event.
Which should you choose?
It depends on the type of event and your budget.
For simultaneous interpretation, you usually need at least two interpreters and for long events, potentially more. Simultaneous interpretation requires intense concentration and most interpreters can work for about 15 minutes before they need to be relieved by a colleague. In contrast, consecutive interpreters can remain on stage with the speaker for the entire event. SI is usually the best choice if you need to have multiple languages interpreted or when hosting conferences or other large events.
Consecutive interpretation is often a better choice for highly scientific and medical information. Because consecutive interpreters have time before their interpretation starts, they are able to take detailed notes that improve their accuracy. CI is also well suited to small meetings, one-on-one meetings, interviews, and press conferences, where the SI equipment may feel like an intrusion and time is not as much of a factor.
If you need interpretation services, reach out to a professional, qualified agency, and provide as much information as you can about the reasons for the interpreter, the language(s) involved, and the duration and size of the event. The agency should be able to guide you toward the best solution to meet your needs.