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How to Choose the Ideal Interpreter for Your Needs

 In interpretation

When most people think of language interpreters, they probably picture a professional interpreter translating for foreign leaders at a press conference, or translators in a booth at the United Nations. But interpreting services are not quite so simple; there are actually three main interpreting methods, and understanding the difference between them can help you choose the right kind of interpreting service for your needs.

Simultaneous Interpreting

In simultaneous interpreting, an interpreter translates a sentence into the target language while simultaneously listening to and understanding the next sentence. The interpreter processes and memorizes what the speaker is saying now, and simultaneously translates the words the speaker said five to ten seconds ago into the target language. Simultaneous interpreting does not paraphrase, but translates the exact language.

Simultaneous interpreters have no time to compare different translations or recall the correct phrasing in the target language; they must be decisive. Delays could result in a few words or even a complete thought being lost.

Simultaneous interpreting is used in large, high-level international meetings, including multinational annual meetings, trade shows, international product launches, global sales presentations and yes, the United Nations. In these situations, interpreters sit in a soundproof booth wearing headphones and interpret in real-time while listeners hear the simultaneous translation in their own headphones.

Simultaneous interpreting requires some special equipment, including booths and audio-visual equipment.

Consecutive Interpreting

In consecutive interpreting, the speaker stops every few minutes or at the end of every paragraph or complete thought, and then the interpreter translates that into the target language. Consecutive interpreting has a back and forth style in which speakers of multiple languages take turns speaking and being interpreted. Basically, consecutive interpreters listen before they talk.

Consecutive interpreting is often used for small business meetings or in a courtroom setting to translate witness testimony. One of the most important skills that a consecutive interpreter must have is note-taking, because not many people can memorize a full paragraph in a single hearing without losing details. An experience consecutive interpreter may even have his or her own system of note-taking.

Consecutive interpreting is very popular because unlike simultaneous interpreting, it does not require any special equipment.

Chuchotage Interpreting

Chuchotage (pronounced “shoo-sho-tahj”) is an interpreting method in which the interpreter stands or sits next to a small target audience and whispers a simultaneous translation in a low volume. Chuchotage is French for “whispering” so this kind of interpreting is sometimes called whispered interpreting.

Chuchotage is ideal for situations in which a single person or a very small number of people require interpretation. It can be used for audiences of several people, but only if they’re located close to the interpreter. Chuchotage interpreting is often used for language support for foreign executives attending a company board meeting, a delegate attending a group training course overseas, or for an overseas factory or office visit.

Chuchotage doesn’t require any special technology, although some equipment may be used to improve delivery. It can be a more economical interpreting choice because it is a form of simultaneous interpreting and can take less time than consecutive interpreting. In addition, chuchotage is typically  done by a single interpreter, where simultaneous interpreting often requires more than one interpreter.

However, there are limitations to chuchotage interpreting. First, it is not a good choice for audiences larger than four. Second, because the interpretation is whispered or even murmured, the audience must concentrate closely. Ambient noise and even the voice of the speaker can be distracting.

The GMD Linguistics Difference

GMD Linguistics offers all three types of interpreting.

We only hire people with very strong backgrounds in linguistics, and all of our interpreters must pass a rigorous and meticulous vetting and testing process, and must be certified. For example, simultaneous interpreting is highly skilled work that requires many years of experience and subject matter expertise. Chuchotage interpreters must also have simultaneous interpreting skills to be able to listen, translate and speak at the same time.

When you come to GMD Linguistics for interpreting services, we bring our strong linguistic background and language experience to your project to help you choose the best method of interpreting to your specific needs.

For more information, see our Interpreting Services page.

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