Interpreting comes in two basic forms, simultaneous and consecutive. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. The one you choose is based on the situation in which it will be used but it is also largely personal preference.
Let’s take a look at the difference between simultaneous and consecutive interpreting.
Simultaneous is like the Lamborghini of interpreting. If interpreting was a spaceship, it would be the Millennium Falcon. If it were a couch, it’d be that sweet black leather sectional you saw at the Brick on the weekend. It’s the Big League Chew, Michael Jackson, Coca-Cola, Peanut butter and jelly sandwich of interpreting.
Simultaneous interpreting involves converting your message into a different language in real-time. A team of interpreters, in special sound booths, hear you speak through headphones and immediately deliver your words in another language to audience members with headsets. This allows you to speak freely and at a natural pace.
Essentially, the process works like this. The speaker will get a few words into his sentence and then the interpreter will start interpreting with a small lag. As the speaker orates, the interpreter listens and speaks at the same time, converting one language into the other.
The amount of mental energy and concentration these interpreters have is, to completely understate it, magnificent. To give you an idea of how mentally taxing simultaneous interpreting is for the interpreters, they generally switch on-and-off every 20 minutes or so.
Consecutive interpreting is like the all-terrain-vehicle of interpreting. The setup isn’t nearly as extensive as simultaneous interpreting but it allows for a conversational approach to interpreting.
Simultaneous interpreting is generally done at conferences when the exchange of information is one-way whereas consecutive interpreting can easily allow two or more people to converse.
Consecutive interpreting has you speaking first, pausing, and then the interpreter interprets. Essentially, your speech or conversation would be divided into chunks, usually by idea, and then delivered by the interpreter.
Which One Should You Choose?
Simultaneous is great for large events and conferences. It allows the speaker to orate naturally, giving a more candid feel to the presentation. With the addition of multiple sound booths, a speech could be interpreted into many different languages to accommodate a highly diverse audience.
Consecutive interpreting is great for business meetings, court hearings, grass roots meetings, and other conversational situations.
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