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What is conference interpreting?

Conference interpreting is a highly specialized type of interpretation that involves skilled professionals providing real-time oral translation services at international conferences, meetings, and negotiations. Conference interpreters bridge linguistic barriers, enabling seamless communication between participants who speak different languages. This service plays a critical role in promoting effective cross-cultural collaboration and facilitating successful global business dealings. Nowadays, simultaneous interpretation is the norm for most conferences. While consecutive interpretation may still be used in some cases, it is becoming increasingly rare.


1. Simultaneous interpretation (SIM)

Simultaneous interpreting (SI) is a highly demanding form of interpretation that requires the interpreter to provide real-time oral translation as the speaker delivers their original message. This method is carried out by a team of two interpreters per language combination, who work in rotating shifts, switching roles every 20 to 30 minutes. One interpreter interprets while the other supports through tasks such as information organization, note-taking, and word lookup. The interpreters work in a soundproof booth equipped with a 2-channel audio transmission system. The process involves the interpreter listening to the original speech through headphones, translating it orally in real-time into the target language, and transmitting it to the audience via wireless headphones equipped with a receiver.

Simultaneous interpreting requires speed and precision, as the interpreter must keep pace with the speaker to minimize the time gap between the original speech and the interpretation. The aim is to have the translated speech closely follow the speaker's words, with a delay of no more than 2 seconds, to prevent the interpreter from losing track of the message. This level of immediacy is why the term "simultaneous" is used, as the interpretation occurs in near real-time.

2.Consecutive interpretation (CI)

Consecutive interpreting (CI) In consecutive interpreting, the interpreter is present in the same room as the speaker and listens to the speech while taking notes. Once the speaker has finished speaking, the interpreter delivers a complete interpretation of the speech into the target language. The speaker makes frequent pauses during their speech to allow the interpreter to interpret what was said, it makes the duration of the meeting longer. This type of interpretation is best suited for shorter events, single-speaker scientific and technical presentations, or for small meetings where only a few languages are being used. Typically, each language combination is handled by a single interpreter.

3. Whispered interpretation (Chuchotage)

Whispering or Whispered interpretation is a type of simultaneous interpretation where the interpreter is physically close to the person in need of interpretation, quietly providing the interpretation directly into their ear. This approach is commonly employed in small-scale meetings and does not require any technical equipment, making it an effective solution for events with a limited number of attendees who do not comprehend the language being used. The term "whispering" in whispering interpretation should not be taken literally. The interpreter speaks in a low voice to minimize disruptions during the event, but not necessarily in a whisper, as it is important for the interpreter to be heard by the person they are assisting. It is typically feasible for one interpreter to provide interpretation for up to two individuals at the same time. Beyond that, it becomes challenging to maintain the low volume while still ensuring the interpretation is audible.

4. Liaison interpretation

Liaison interpreting is a type of consecutive interpretation frequently used in public service settings. It is applied whenever there is a need for communication between a small number of individuals. The interpreter acts as a mediator, alternating between both languages as needed. This type of interpreting typically involves short sentences and does not require note-taking. Liaison interpreting is not as technically demanding as other forms of interpretation and can be used in conference settings to assist delegates who do not speak the local language. It is also used in medical appointments, police interviews, legal meetings, prison visits, school meetings, and more.

5. Remote interpretation

Remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) or Consecutive remote interpretation is a cost-effective and flexible method of providing interpreting services in real-time, regardless of geographical location. Interpreters work remotely through technology such as video conferencing or phone lines and use a headset and microphone to listen to the speaker and interpret into the target language, which is then transmitted to participants. RSI is ideal for virtual meetings, webinars, and conferences with participants in different regions and allows for simultaneous interpretation in multiple languages. The recommended practice is to work in a remote interpreting hub, which meets ISO/IEC standards for sound insulation, equipment, and accessibility. With RSI, individuals can communicate with each other in real-time despite being in different physical locations.

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