Here are some useful definitions about interpreting, and tips to book interpreters and prepare for your event. Understand which type of interpreter you need and how to brief your interpreter effectively to achieve the best results.

Interpreter or translator? Consecutive, simultaneous, whispering, liaison?

An interpreter converts the spoken word from one language to another whereas a translator only works with written texts. These 2 professions require distinct skills.

Consecutive interpreters, also known as ad hoc or face-to-face interpreters, are most needed for business meetings, press conferences, legal matters, interviews, etc. They usually take notes and interpret speech when the speaker pauses.

Simultaneous interpreters are required for events attended by a multilingual audience such as conferences, seminars, training courses, large meetings or international arbitrations. They normally work in pairs and relay each other every 20-30 minutes, because live interpreting is exhausting. They usually sit in a sound-proof booth and relay the translation to the audience via a microphone and headsets.

Whispering interpreting, also called “chuchotage”, is a form of simultaneous interpreting used when there are only one or two foreign delegates attending a meeting or conference. The interpreter sits next to the listener(s) and whispers the translated speech while the speaker talks.

Liaison interpreters – sometimes referred to as escort interpreters – will interpret between two languages in both directions. They usually facilitate informal discussions, and can accompany clients during visits or sightseeing.

Sign interpreters – in the UK known as British Sign Interpreters. These interpreters aid the communication with deaf or hard-hearing people.Booking an interpreterWhen enquiring about an interpreter try to ensure you can answer the 7 following questions:

  • Which language/s?
  • What purpose? Or what type of interpreters you need?
  • Who is the audience? How many people?
  • What is the subject matter?
  • Where is the venue?
  • When will it happen?
  • How many hours, days?

If you want to book an interpreter, do it as far in advance as possible and give as many details as you can to make sure that you get the interpreter most suitable to your needs. Do let your vendor know if you think that the subject matter or nature of the assignment can be sensitive or controversial, and if there is a reason why you require a male or female interpreter. It is best to warn about possible issues in advance as some interpreters might not feel comfortable with certain subject matter or situations.

It is not unusual for an interpreter to ask to see some reference material prior to accepting an assignment, especially in case of simultaneous interpreting, unusual assignments, or highly technical subjects. Access to reference material helps the interpreter to make sure s/he has adequate knowledge of the subject, and to evaluate whether there is sufficient time to brush up on any technical or specific terminology involved.Preparing for your eventA few days before the assignment try to provide background material such as brochures, presentations, websites, etc. On the actual day allow adequate time to brief the interpreters and inform them of the schedule and any special requirements.

Remember to brief the speakers:

  • For consecutive interpreting ask them to pause every few sentences to allow time for interpreting what has been said.
  • For simultaneous interpreting, ask them to speak clearly and at a steady pace, use the microphones provided, and make presentations/ handouts available in the audience language/s. Don’t forget to ensure audience headsets are adjusted to the correct language.

We hope these tips will help you to ensure your future interpreting assignments are successful.

Please feel free to contact us to discuss your interpreting requirements.