Simultaneous and Consecutive Interpretation: Which one is better?

What the interpreters do not say

Unfortunately, the profession of the interpreter is still the subject of too many clichés. Many people think that the job of an interpreter is not very different from a translator, but it is. Interpretation deals with oral communication, while translation solely deals with written texts. Furthermore, an interpreter does not necessarily have to work behind the scenes with their headphones and microphone. Interpretation is divided into two branches.

On the one hand, there is Simultaneous Interpretation and, on the other hand, there is Consecutive Interpretation. An interpreter can choose to specialize in just one of them or both. In the following, we will describe the main differences between these two methods. 

What is Simultaneous Interpretation?

The Simultaneous method consists of translating a speech at the same time it takes place. The interpreter hears a lesson, and they decode it in real time. Their listeners often listen to them through earphones. The interpreter is usually located in a soundproof booth. This is the most used method for interpreting. It is undoubtedly the cheaper one. This method is also known as “conference interpretation”. Simultaneous interpreters are skilled workers. A simultaneous interpreter usually earns more than a Consecutive one. However, it is much more challenging to become an excellent simultaneous interpreter. The time available to translate a sentence is too short. Indeed, they have no time. It takes many years to become a superb interpreter with this method.

What is Consecutive Interpretation?

The Consecutive method does not require many tools. A pen and a notepad are often enough. The concept is simple: the speaker expresses themselves, the interpreter listens, takes notes, and then returns the target language message. The idea is simple: the speaker gives their speech while the interpreter listens and takes notes. Then, they return the message in the chosen language. Many decades ago, some talented interpreters were able to reproduce speeches that lasted from 20 to 30 minutes by memory alone. Nowadays, the situation is different. Modern interpreters only use three tools: memory, note taking, and general knowledge. Compared to the simultaneous method, the consecutive process allows for more freedom. Therefore, the interpreter can afford the luxury to translate in a non-literal way.

How to find out which method is the best choice for you

Unfortunately, it is not possible to declare which method is better than the other. It depends on many things. However, we would say that simultaneous interpreting is best suited for large formal events. Conversely, consecutive interpreting is more suitable when there is no need for the audience to follow the speaker simultaneously.

If you need more information about these two services, please contact us. We will answer all of your questions and choose the interpretation service that best suits your needs.


written by eleonora the 8 January, 2021

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