By: Chelsea On: May 25, 2021 In: Legal Interpreting Comments: 0
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Interpreting is available in multiple formats and styles.

For example, interpreters can be situated either on-site or in remote locations. Similarly, interpreters can be scheduled long in advance or called upon for immediate use. Then too, interpreters can be specialists who are familiar with a technical subject through access to preparatory materials or generalists who begin an interpretation “cold.”

Regardless of the circumstance or urgency, however, interpreters perform their function in either a consecutive or simultaneous style.

To help you figure out which style interpreting best suits your needs, we’ve outlined the key differences between both consecutive and simultaneous interpreting as well as when each is best utilized.

Consecutive Interpreting

In consecutive interpreting each participant takes turns speaking.

Here’s how it works: One participant (lets call this person speaker one) expresses a thought. The interpreter waits until speaker one is finished before relaying the message to the second participant (speaker two) in a language or dialect speaker two understands.

This sequence is then reversed with speaker two’s response completed and then interpreted for speaker one.

When to Use Consecutive Interpreting

Consecutive interpreting works best for small groups or one-on-one conversations where the added time required for this form of interpreting is not critical.

Examples where consecutive interpreting is commonly used include:

  • Interviews
  • HR meetings
  • Parent-teacher conferences
  • Hearings
  • Depositions
  • Attorney-client meetings
  • Medical consultations

The Pros & Cons of Consecutive Interpreting

Consecutive interpreting has the advantage of being more like a conversation, with both parties able to speak uninterrupted.

However, it usually takes about twice the amount of time since the interpreter must wait until each party finishes speaking before beginning the interpretation – in essence doubling the conversation time.

Simultaneous Interpreting

Simultaneous interpreting — sometimes called conference interpreting — approximates real-time delivery of information.

Here’s how it works: The interpretation is transmitted to listeners in languages they understand while the original speech is still in progress.

When to Use Simultaneous Interpreting

Simultaneous interpreting is primarily used in formal or large group settings where one person is speaking in front of an audience. Simultaneous interpreting can also be used in interactive formats including a court room or during a Q&A session at a conference.

Examples where simultaneous interpreting is commonly used include:

  • Diplomatic conferences
  • Plenary sessions
  • Working groups
  • International conventions
  • Business or board meetings
  • Training sessions
  • Courtrooms
  • Lectures and presentations

Pros & Cons of Simultaneous Interpreting

Simultaneous interpreting has the advantage of reaching large numbers of participants quickly. Additionally, you can have more than one interpreter working at a time reaching participants who speak a range of languages.

However, simultaneous interpreting frequently requires the use of audiovisual equipment such as wireless receivers, headsets, microphones, and soundproof interpreting booths.

Additionally, as simultaneous interpreters require breaks to prevent fatigue, having a team of two or more simultaneous interpreters is advisable which can be an added expense.

Consecutive Interpreting vs Simultaneous Interpreting at a Glance

Consecutive interpreting has the advantage of requiring less preparation and, by extension, less technology than simultaneous interpreting.

As a result, consecutive interpreting is generally less expensive than simultaneous interpreting and often requires less advance scheduling.

On the other hand, consecutive interpreting usually requires more than twice the amount of time to conduct a session than simultaneous interpreting.

As a result of these time constraints, simultaneous interpreting has the advantage when time is of the essence and/or when the participants wish to keep an interaction moving forward without interruption.

Similarly, simultaneous interpreting is better adapted to a situation where there are three or more languages spoken among participants.

How LLS Can Help

Whether you choose consecutive interpreting vs simultaneous interpreting, you can find the right interpreting format that fits all your needs by contacting the professionals at Legal Language.

Our experienced interpreters provide services in 200+ languages and dialects. We also offer interpreting equipment rentals and the audio engineers to back it up.

Contact LLS today to learn more about how we can help you.

Call 1-800-755-5775  or simply fill out Interpreting Services Request Form.


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