Difference between simultaneous and consecutive interpretation
Every day, we get booking enquiries for conference interpreters. That’s great because… well, we are an interpretation agency. However, we specialize in providing simultaneous interpretation services, sometimes also called conference interpretation.
Through the years, we have observed that our prospects still get confused with consecutive vs simultaneous interpretation. And this includes professionals working in the events and conference industry.
So, what’s the definition?
Let’s start with an online dictionary.
Consecutive is an adjective that means following one after the other in order.
Simultaneous is also an adjective that means occurring at the same time.
Interpret is to act as an interpreter between speakers of different languages.
Wikipedia describes consecutive vs simultaneous as follows:
“In consecutive interpreting (CI), the interpreter speaks after the source-language speaker has finished speaking. The speech is divided into segments, and the interpreter sits or stands beside the source-language speaker, listening and taking notes as the speaker progresses through the message.”
“When the speaker pauses or finishes speaking, the interpreter then renders a portion of the message or the entire message in the target language.”
“In (extempore) simultaneous interpretation (SI), the interpreter translates the message in the target-language as quickly as he or she can formulate it from the source language, while the source-language speaker continuously speaks. In the ideal setting for oral language, the interpreter sits in a sound-proof booth and speaks into a microphone, while clearly seeing and hearing the source-language speaker via earphones.”
“The simultaneous interpretation is rendered to the target-language listeners via their earphones.”
In short, consecutive interpretation is “stop-and-start”
while simultaneous interpretation is “continuous”.
So, when to use Consecutive or Simultaneous Interpretation?
Since the interpreter waits for the speaker to finish a sentence or a thought before translating the speaker’s words into the target language, this type of interpretation takes time.
It breaks the rhythm of the meeting. And the same message is said twice, once in the source language and then into the target language.
This is ideal for small business meetings, interviews, press conferences or any one-to-one meetings.
The interpreter translates the speaker’s words or thoughts while the speaker is still speaking. There is usually a slight delay (of about 30 seconds) from the time the speaker starts speaking and the interpreter starts interpreting.
This is not a word for word translation more how the interpreter would render the speaker’s thoughts or idea.
To make this type of interpretation work, simultaneous interpretation equipment is needed. Interpreters sit inside a soundproof booth while the conference participants listen with their headsets.
Also, this type of interpretation demands extreme concentration therefore requiring a team of two interpreters per language.
This is ideal for conferences of any size or for presentations that convey a lot of information.