What is simultaneous interpreting?
Simultaneous interpreting is - as can be
discerned from the name - interpreting for someone in another
language while the speaker speaks
without interruption. This is the opposite of consecutive interpreting,
because in consecutive interpreting, the interpreter awaits his turn
and does not start
speaking until the speaker allows him the time to do so. Simultaneous
one of the most common type of interpreting, but it is also the most
difficult. Very few interpreters can do it,
and not all interpreters that do it can do it well.
When is it necessary?
interpreting is used when there are attendees at an event who cannot
understand what the speaker says and there is no time or opportunity to
speaker pause regularly.
- A stockholders meeting
in English, but several trustees or members of the board and several
stockholders, speak Japanese and could have
difficulty with the English language. Perhaps you are expecting
questions to be asked in Japanese which the English speaking people
present should also understand. In that case it is best to use an
interpreter booth, one or (preferably) more simultaneous
interpreters, and a sound system with microphones for the interpreters,
microphones for the speakers, and headsets for everyone.
- You are a marketing research company.
You are going to have interviews with some respondents - in Japanese.
But an English speaking representative of your foreign client wants
to listen in on several interviews. In that case, you reserve an extra
room for one or more simultaneous interpreters and your guest, put a
video camera and at least one
microphone in the interview room, and a sound/video system connected to
it in the other room, with a set of headphones for the interpreter.
- You are organizing a conference with
Japanese speakers, but are expecting a number of English speaking
visitors. In that case you would hire one or more simultaneous
interpreters, and a so-called whispering or guide set for the sound
(microphone, infrared transmitter and sets of headphones).
- You are organizing a conference with
both English-speaking and
Chinese-speaking speakers and visitors. There will be speeches and
discussions in both languages. You reserve a conference center or hall,
an interpreter booth, microphones, headphones and... simultaneous
How many interpreters are needed?
In the examples above you may have noticed
of a need to hire more than one interpreter. Now you might be asking
do I determine whether I need one interpreter or more?" In order to
answer that question, you need to know how a simultaneous
interpreter works. It is really a very complex process, one that only
very few interpreters can handle well. First, the speaker is speaking,
speaker does not stop or pause. He keeps talking. Therefore the
interpreter must do the following while the speaker is talking:
- listen to what the speaker is saying
- translate it in his mind
- render the translation in his
- (and this is the most difficult part)
continue listening to what is being said while he is speaking himself
This is why it it is nearly impossible for
even the most experienced simultaneous interpreters to be able to
interpret continuously for more than about 15 minutes without taking a
break, and if you are having a one or two hour lecture...well, you can
see the problem. The most common remedy for this is for simultaneous
interpreters to work in pairs. One will translate while the other
listens to the presentation to keep up to speed and then they switch.
While the first is taking a break and recovering, the second will
continue with the translation. If the team has experience working
together, those listening to the interpretation may not even notice
that there is more than one interpreter.
The difficulty of simultaneous interpreting is taken seriously by most
agencies and of course by the interpreters themselves. If it is
determined that a project is too difficult for a single interpreter you
will be recommended to hire two for the project. As I hope you can see,
no one is trying to stick it to you here, they just want to provide the
highest quality service possible. (Note: Most agencies will kindly ask
you to look elsewhere for services if you are unwilling to pay for the