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., impressed me a lot back then. Still does.

One of the many things that fascinated me was listening to foreign speakers via headsets as they spoke in their 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.

The simultaneous type is when the interpreter converts the source language into the target language in a ‘timeline’ as the 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 Simultaneous, this means many things should be accounted for during the preparation and show time. An exclusive language service company is the address that is supposed to combine all involved pieces and must make it smooth and enjoyable for everyone. Otherwise? Prestige is gone, and money is wasted!

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

Let’s start with the cost aspect… A simultaneous interpreting event costs multiple times more than a consecutive type because,e from a particular technical setup to specially trained and experienced interpreters, it requires multiple parties. The language service company, which assumes this responsibility, should consolidate all necessary cost items optimally to benefit the event’s success and the 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 he 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 the selection of experienced interpreter pair who are comfortable in particular subject matters, sourcing the interpreters locally if possible (to reduce high travel costs), providing the right and cost-effective sound system, providing staff to install/dismantle the sound system in compliance with venue and city rules, providing capable on-site technician who will support throughout the event, a PM coordinating all. 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 in simultaneous interpretation events that event owners/organizers benefit from when hiring a language service company.

Interpreters are genuinely the voice of international events; therefore, they must be mentally prepared to carry through lengthy meetings and interpret technical materials. Due to the intense nature of the work, each interpreter usually works for 20-30 minutes at a stretch and then takes a break of 10 minutes 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 them, it is called whispered simultaneous interpreting. Some of the features of whispering simultaneous interpretation are:

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

The whispering interpreter can often use headphones to achieve the best possible sound from the original speaker.

2) Interpretation with portable equipment

Interpretation with portable simultaneous interpretation equipment requires a set up that interpreters have a transmitter with a microphone and delegates receive headsets. This arrangement mode is used when tours have to be set up, such as museum visits or factory visits, 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 an important role. This type of interpreting makes language barriers insignificant without affecting the flow of the event and session. Regardless of the language a delegate communicates in; attendees quickly 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 to express themselves in the native language they are comfortable in.
  • Efficiency: simultaneous interpreting gives all attendees an equal chance to speak their minds and listen in their native language. This is a trustworthy interactive communication platform where no one becomes uncertain about the talk occurring in the same hall or room.
  • Better results: Complete honest communication amongst different nationalities directly affects the purpose of the event’s objectives.
  • Saves time: Time is so valuable at international events. Instead of speeches distributed to the participants later, simultaneous interpreting does it in real-time while all attendees are present, and they can 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 World War II.