FM TransmittersThe act of live simultaneous interpreting is no simple task, no matter what the languages, content or formality of the event. As similar to translating as it is in theory, interpreting greatly varies from translating in that the pressure is on the timing of the act. The nature of translating is based on the act of writing itself; whereas interpreting is closer to acting on a stage with constant pressure on the timing and clarity of the message. So here are four pivotal questions about simultaneous interpretation to ask yourself before your next big event…

How essential is the fluidity of the information?

For most large conferences or events, time is a very precious thing. With simultaneous interpreting services, there is no less than a few seconds delay in communicating the information from one language to another. Now let’s say there are 10 different speakers in one day for a given event, with consecutive interpreters there could be five times as long of a delay as with simultaneous interpreters which can add up to hours per day that you are extending the overall time spent communicating the same information. This can add up quickly and will certainly try the patience of your attendees.

How complex is the information being communicated?

If the subject matter of your event is something that requires a significant amount of concentration, you may be putting yourself at a disadvantage by using consecutive interpreters. With simultaneous interpretation, your audience has less time to be distracted by the ticking of the clock or the crazy pattern on the presenter’s tie. With a very small lag of time between the vocalization of the speaker’s message and the interpretation, the audience’s memory is not being tested with each sentence. This is particularly important with technical or complex information where the audience needs to anticipate the direction of each sentence to fully grasp the meaning.

How many people are you expecting to communicate with?

For small meetings with very few individuals in need of an interpretation, consecutive interpretation works just fine. However, if you are trying to seamlessly keep the attention of a dozen to a couple hundred people who come from various cultures, then simultaneous interpreting is hands down your most effective option. It is also much more cost effective to add people into the interpretation experience with simultaneous interpreting since it usually just means adding a headset and receiver to the appropriate language pair.

How experienced of an interpreter do you require?

Generally speaking, simultaneous interpreters require more experience in their field (language pairs and subject expertise) than consecutive interpreters. The act of simultaneous interpreting has been compared to the work done by air traffic controllers in terms of the stress levels and they therefore tend to be more habituated to high-pressure situations. That is not to say that consecutive interpreters have less skill, but rather, that simultaneous interpreters have a more specific technique to their work, which can ensure that the interpretation will be done more efficiently if you have a large amount of information and a bigger audience.

In conclusion, interpreting is truly a blend of sensory, motor and cognitive skills working in unison and with a shared direction. And for any important event in more than one language, having a quality simultaneous interpreter can make all the difference in making sure things go swimmingly.


Here are some more articles that you may be interested in.

Simultaneous Interpretation: How Does the Brain Tackle such a Demanding Task?

Ethics for Interpreters

The History of Simultaneous Interpretation Equipment