Simultaneous and consecutive interpreting: what's the difference?


Simultaneous and consecutive interpreting differ in several aspects such as the context of use, the working method and the purposes.

Although every event, meeting or conference where participants who speak different languages meet requires an interpreter, the choice of interpreting method to use varies from case to case and depends on several factors. Let's find out together what this choice comes from and what are the main differences between simultaneous and consecutive interpreting.

What is simultaneous interpretation?

Simultaneous interpreting is a mode of interpreting in which speech is translated in real time, with a delay of just a handful of words compared to the speaker. The work of the simultaneous interpreter takes place in special booths, equipped with all the necessary equipment for the task.

Simultaneous interpreting is mainly suitable for large-scale events such as conferences. To understand the scope of these events, think of the United Nations assembly: through a coordinated interpreting effort, a speech is delivered simultaneously in all languages to representatives of all the nations of the world.

The work of the simultaneous interpreter is very expensive from a mental point of view, so much so that at least a couple of professionals are usually used and alternated for a single event. The mental expenditure of listening, processing and translating in real time means that every 20-30 minutes the interpreter has to take a break to maintain high standards.

What is consecutive interpreting?

Consecutive interpreting does not use any equipment. The interpreter relies only on his own memory and notes, called interpretation notes. During this type of interpreting, the speaker pauses briefly at the end of each meaningful sentence so that the interpreter can translate. The best performing professionals, however, thanks to a proven method, a trained memory and notes, are able to minimize pauses and translate up to several minutes of a speech.

Consecutive interpreting is more commonly used in less formal contexts than simultaneous interpreting, such as business meetings or dinners or informal meetings between heads of state or visits by foreign delegates. It is also used in court hearings or during criminal investigations.

Simultaneous and consecutive interpreting compared

Temp. Simultaneous interpretation takes place in real time, which means that the speaker can speak freely without interruptions. Consecutive interpreting, on the other hand, requires many pauses to allow the interpreter to carry out the translation. On average, simultaneous interpreters save 30-50% of the time compared to consecutive interpreters.

Equipment and organization. Simultaneous interpreting requires booths, technical equipment (audio, microphone, software) and at least two interpreters to ensure that everything runs smoothly; consecutive interpreting is more reasoned and minimal: an interpreter and a notebook are enough. This implies that the costs of the former are clearly higher than the latter.

Accuracy. Simultaneous interpretation takes place in real time: the interpreter translates everything live, without leaving out any type of information. However, he may be forced to favor fluency of translation over lexical precision. On the other hand, in consecutive interpreting the interpreter has more leeway and more time to organize his thoughts and resist a stylistically elegant translation. On the other hand, consecutive interpreters also have to respect times and therefore the translated speech is often shorter than the original and some information could be lost.

Simultaneous or consecutive interpreting? Get help from International Congresses

Regardless of the mode of interpreting you choose, the indispensable element is an experienced and reliable interpreter who specializes in your sector. Congressi Internazionali offers consecutive and simultaneous interpreting services.

Not sure which service you need or would like to find out more about our interpreting offers?

Marketing Team International Congresses

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+39 3755806530
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