Professional interpreters are among the most talented of all linguists. As opposed to translators, who typically work with written documentation, interpreters translate the spoken word of people into a different language. If you are not a language specialist yourself, you may not realize that there are actually two types of interpreting – consecutive and simultaneous. What follows is a brief description of each, along with a list of where each form of interpretation is typically used.

Consecutive Interpretation

In consecutive interpreting, the interpreter first listens to what one speaker says, then translates that message for the listener. Interpreters who work in this mode are required to not only have impeccable language knowledge, but also an extremely good memory since they are basically remembering what was just said by one individual and providing a spoken word-for-word translation to another individual or group of people. These interpreters usually work on their own.

Situations Requiring Consecutive Interpretation

Most consecutive interpreters work in situations where people are communicating on either a one-on-one basis or in a small group setting. This may include, for example, medical consultations, parent-teacher conferences, business meetings, job interviews, or attorney-client meetings.

Simultaneous Interpretation

Another form of interpreting – and one that many people would find to be quite challenging – is simultaneous interpreting. If you’ve ever seen videos of a United Nations meeting, for example, you are witnessing simultaneous interpreting in action. These interpreters listen to what one speaker is saying and provide a verbal translation to another individual or group at the same time – in other words, the linguist is providing an interpretation as the speaker is speaking. To those of us who are not language professionals, this may sound like a nearly impossible task. And it does, in fact, require the interpreter to be completely fluent in the language(s), as well as mentally sharp and able to multi-task on an exceptionally high level. Because of the rapid-fire nature of this type of interpretation, simultaneous interpreters often work in groups of two or three people, a small team that assists one another in providing accurate translations that might not come immediately to mind if left up to a single interpreter.

Situations Requiring Simultaneous Interpretation

The majority of simultaneous interpreters work in larger groups, where one individual is speaking before an audience, for example. Some of these situations include conventions, board meetings, training sessions, conferences, classrooms, and courtroom settings.

If you are in need of an interpreter, remember that you should look for a linguist who is not only fluent in the language(s) involved, but also one who has experience working in similar situations. A consecutive interpreter, for example, may not be experienced in providing simultaneous interpretations. You’ll also need an interpreter with experience in your industry. Although this is always important, it’s especially crucial in industries that employ specialized terminology – such as the healthcare industry or the legal field, for example.

No matter what your interpretation needs may be, the best place to begin your search for a professional interpreter is by contacting a reputable translation company. Rather than attempting to employ an individual freelance interpreter – one who may or may not have the experience necessary for your needs – a good translation company will be able to match your requirements with the right interpreter for the job. They will take into account not only the language(s) in question, but also the specific background of the interpreter (consecutive vs. simultaneous), as well as what industries he or she has worked with in the past.

Interpreters are, without a doubt, some of the most talented and skilled of all language professionals. Find the right one for your needs by contacting a reputable translation company today.