Team Language Professionals


Frequently asked questions about conference interpreting

How does simultaneous interpreting work?

Simultaneous interpreting involves the words of a speaker being transferred simultaneously into another language. The difference grammatical structures of languages - for example in German the verb often comes at the end of the sentence - means the interpreter has to actively reshape what the speaker has said in order to put it across as accurately as possible. So simultaneous interpreting is not just passive "parroting" in another language. It calls for a high level of skill and concentration, which is why interpreters sit in soundproofed booths to protect them from extraneous noise.

What are the different types of interpreting, and how are they used?

The basic differentiation is between simultaneous and consecutive interpreting. Unlike simultaneous interpreting, consecutive interpreting involves speeches or statements being transferred into another language after they have been made. To do so, the interpreter relies on memory, backed up by a special form of note-taking. No equipment is needed, but double the amount of time is required.

Further differentiations are made according to the practical situation:

We will be pleased to advise you on the type of interpreting best suited to your needs.

What is the minimum number of interpreters I need per team?

Particularly for complex, highly specialised subjects, simultaneous interpreting requires a very high degree of concentration - which is why interpreters work in pairs, each interpreting for a maximum of 30 or 40 minutes at a time. If interpreters are going to be required for more than five hours, then the team should be increased from 2 to 3 in order to ensure quality.

What background does a professional interpreter have?

Interpreting is a highly skilled activity, but it is not a protected profession and virtually anyone can call themselves an interpreter. As a result, quality can fluctuate. That is why it makes sense to engage a properly trained interpreter with a university qualification. He or she should preferably be a member of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (aiic), whose members require several years of experience and a level of competence and professionalism confirmed by an active member.

What equipment is required?

Simultaneous interpreters usually work in soundproofed booths that have been hired and set up especially for the meeting. They listen to the speakers via headphones and speak their interpretation into a microphone. The audience listens to the interpretation using headphones with a compact wireless or infrared receiver.

For mobile use, for example during factory visits, portable equipment is also available. This consists of a wireless microphone with built-in transmitter for the interpreter and lightweight wireless receivers and headphones for the audience. It is more difficult for the interpreter to work under these conditions, as there is no soundproofed booth available. The voice of the interpreter can also disturb other audience members, as he or she is sitting in the same room. For this reason, portable equipment is not suitable for long-term use or for larger groups.

Why do interpreters need preparation material?

Just as lawyers brief themselves on their next case so, too, professional interpreters always prepare carefully in terms of content and terminology for each new assignment.

Conference organisers can help by making the full range of relevant documentation available: the agenda, a list of speakers, a list of participants, all the documents sent out to participants, speech texts, presentations, background information etc. it goes without saying that all information will be treated in the strictest confidence.

What do I have to keep in mind as a speaker?

We have put together some advice under the heading "Tips for Speakers".

What do I have to keep in mind as a conference organiser?

We have put together some advice under the heading "Conference Consultancy".

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