My father used to take me high-level economic and think tank conferences when I was child. The atmosphere of seeing international people, visionary speeches, ideas, country flags, conference hall set up, coffee breaks, etc. have all impressed me a lot back then. I must admit, still does.

One of the many things used to fascinate me a lot was listening foreign speakers via headsets as they speak in their own language. Now, I manage a company that does simultaneous interpreting events and as I do it, memories take me back to my childhood.

Events that include simultaneous interpreting are exciting and also come with high expectations. The money spent on such events should be worthwhile.

Simultaneous type is that interpreter converts the source language into the target language in ‘real time’ as speaker continues to talk. There should not be delay and confusion between the interpretation and what the listeners are hearing. The interpreter can pause for no more than a couple of words behind the speaker. The pause is to capture the speech and process for interpretation.

As opposed to Consecutive interpreting, if an event is designated to be in Simultaneous, this means many things should be accounted during the preparation and show time. An exclusive language service company is the address that is supposed to combine all involving pieces together and must make it smooth and enjoyable for everyone. Otherwise? Prestige is gone, money is wasted!

Being fluent in two languages does not make a simultaneous interpreter qualified. Simultaneous interpreting is a profession requires combination of specialized training in this field, absolute experience, general culture, professional conduct, high level concentration, sharp mind, etc. that all effect the quality an event. This is one of the reasons being so careful about selecting a language service company as you rely your event’s success to qualification of the linguists.

Let’s start with cost aspect… A simultaneous interpreting event cost multiple times than a consecutive type, because from a special technical set up to specially trained and experienced interpreters, it requires multiple parties involve. The language service company, which assumes this responsibility, should consolidate all necessary cost items in optimum way for the benefit of event’s success and client’s budget.

Typically, a Project Manager needs to be assigned for each event who understands the needs and dynamics of your event, then should come back with a budget (quote) and action plan. We at CBS Translation say that a Project Manager is so critical that needs to act like a CEO of an event. Why is that? Because, unlike Consecutive interpretations, Simultaneous interpreting has a lot of variables.

In brief, these variables are selection of experienced interpreter pair who are comfortable in particular subject matters, sourcing the interpreters locally if possible (to reduce high travel costs), providing right and cost effective sound system, providing staff to install / dismantle sound system in compliance with venue and city rules, providing capable on-site technician who will support throughout the event, a PM coordinating all and all staff needs like parking, accommodation, transportation, specific client needs, regulations, equipment delivery, testing, etc.

From planning to execution and managing unique situations, these are the type of work involved for simultaneous interpretation event that event owners / organizers benefit when hiring a language service company.

Interpreters are truly the voice of international events and therefore, they need to be mentally prepared for carrying on through lengthy meetings and interpreting technical materials as well. Due to the intense nature of work, each interpreter usually works for 20-30 minutes at a stretch and then takes a break of 10 minutes in between each meeting. If the quality of interpretation suffers due to the interpreter being tired, listeners are the ones who are going to bear the full brunt of this. It is generally a standard industry practice to hire two interpreters for simultaneous interpretation assignments.

Types of Simultaneous Interpretation

There are two types of simultaneous interpretation that exist.

1) Whispering Interpretation

When the interpreter is sitting or standing amongst the delegates and interpreting simultaneously directly to the delegates, it is called whispered simultaneous interpreting. Some of the features of whispering simultaneous interpretation are:

  • It can be used for very few number of delegates who are standing or sitting close to each other.
  • It is generally used in bilateral meetings or in groups where some delegates do not share a common language.
  • It is often used in place of consecutive interpretation to save time.

Many times, the whispering interpreter can also use a headphone so as to achieve the best possible sound coming from the original speaker.

2) Interpretation with portable equipment

Interpretation with portable simultaneous interpretation equipment require a set up that interpreters have a transmitter with a microphone and delegates receive headsets. This mode of interpretation is used in situations when tours have to be set up, such as museum visits or factory visits, places where one needs to move around. The portable simultaneous interpretation equipment does not replace any original interpretation equipment and is used alongside that if any is to be used.

Why Simultaneous Interpretation is important

During international event settings, simultaneous interpretation plays important role. This type of interpreting simply makes language barriers insignificant without affecting the flow of the event and session. Regardless of the language a delegate communicates in, attendees easily follow the speaker in real-time with the help of simultaneous interpretation.

Reasons why simultaneous interpretation is critical: 

  • Complete communication: Because interpreting happens in real-time allowing attendees expressing themselves in the native language they are comfortable in.
  • Efficiency: simultaneous interpreting gives all attendees equal chance in speaking their mind and listening in their native language. This is a true interactive communication platform, where no one becomes uncertain with the talk occurring in same hall or room.
  • Better results: Complete real time communication amongst different nationalities result directly towards the purpose of event’s objectives.
  • Saves time: Time is so valuable at international events. Instead of speeches distributed to the participants at later time, simultaneous interpreting does it in real-time while all attendees are present and while they are able to follow what is being discussed.

Ending this article with an interesting piece of information…. the technique of simultaneous interpretation was first used at the Nuremberg Trial after the end of World War II.