Interpreting modes

Generally speaking, there are four interpreting modes, which are explained in this section. Please also refer to this downloadable infographic (currently only available in German).

For a full glossary of interpreting terms, please refer to our glossary (currently only available in German).

Simultaneous interpreting

Simultaneous interpreting involves the translation of the spoken word virtually in real time. This requires exceptional concentration on the part of the interpreter, which is why normally a team of at least two simultaneous interpreters will work side by side in a soundproof booth, taking turns every 20 to 30 minutes.

Typical settings: Multilingual meetings, conferences, negotiations, entertainment shows, gala events, etc.

Whispered interpretation

Whispering (also known as chuchotage) is a variation on simultaneous interpreting and is only suitable in certain situations. The interpreter stands/sits beside (or just behind) the person requiring interpretation and whispers a translated version of the speech to them.

This mode of interpreting requires a team of at least two conference interpreters. To keep noise levels down and avoid irritation on the part of the other participants, whispering is only ever provided for one or at most two listeners.

Consecutive interpreting

Consecutive interpreters listen to extended sections of a speech while taking notes using a special technique; they then provide an interpretation immediately afterwards. The number of consecutive interpreters will depend on the difficulty and the duration of the meeting in question. Since the interpretation is provided consecutively rather than in real time, organisers should be aware that this mode requires around twice as much time as simultaneous interpreting.

Typical settings: Dinner speeches, welcome addresses, bilateral negotiations, formal events (e.g., award speeches), guided tours, etc.

Liaison interpreting

This variation on consecutive interpreting, also referred to as bilateral interpreting, involves the translation of shorter sections of what has been said after the speaker pauses.

Typical settings: Round table negotiations, technical settings (e.g., introduction of a new piece of machinery), lunch/dinner meetings, etc.

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