Conference interpreting in general

Conference Interpreting is interpreting at international events and meetings. The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) defines interpreting as the practice of conveying the meaning of a speaker’s message orally and in another language to listeners who would otherwise not understand. The main aim of conference interpreting is to enable communication between speakers of different languages. Such communication is enabled by three different types of interpreting – simultaneous interpreting, consecutive interpreting and whispered interpretation.

Types of interpreting

Simultaneous interpreting

Simultaneous interpreters sit in a sound-proof booth and listen to speakers through headphones, and, at the same time, they speak into a microphone, interpreting what they hear into their target language. In order to hear the translation, the participants use headphones. When they wish to speak, they must use a microphone.
Simultaneous interpreting is a very complex process, in which several activities occur at the same time (listening, content analysis, anticipation of what has not yet been said, interpretation into the target language, speaking). Therefore, simultaneous interpretation requires a high level of concentration, and one interpreter can interpret for a maximum of 30 to 40 minutes, after which he/she needs to be relieved. That is why at least two interpreters sit in each booth and take turns during their work.
The daily working hours of simultaneous interpreters should not exceed six hours, not including a lunch break of at least one hour.

Consecutive interpreting

Unlike simultaneous interpreting, consecutive interpreting requires no technical equipment. The interpreter speaks after the speaker has made a statement, or, for longer speeches, after the speaker has expressed a complete thought. Interpreters take notes using a special technique to aid their memory.

Since this interpreting technique is more time-consuming, it is suitable for smaller working groups, round tables, negotiations, political meetings etc.

Whispered interpretation (chuchotage)

The speech is interpreted ‘simultaneously’, in the sense that no additional time is required as with consecutive interpreting, but the interpreter whispers, without any technical equipment. This places a strain on both the vocal cords and hearing apparatus of the interpreter, since earphones are not used, making it hard for the interpreter to hear everything that is said while he/she is speaking. This type of interpretation is only used for one or two meeting participants, to enable them to follow the presentation or discussion, and possibly join in with the help of consecutive interpretation. It should be kept in mind that this interpreting mode increases the level of noise in the room and is fatiguing for the audience as well as the interpreters. Generally, it is used as an alternative to simultaneous or consecutive interpreting only at very short meetings.