A long conference table with microphones and headphones

There are two main methods of interpretation: simultaneous and consecutive. As they are sometimes misunderstood, we’ve prepared this basic primer for you. Find out more about the difference between the two types, and the pros and cons of each one.

What are the two methods of interpretation?

Simultaneous interpretation requires the interpreter to translate the speaker’s words while the speaker is talking. For this to work effectively in large groups, interpreters often communicate via a microphone to listeners wearing headphones. Essentially, the interpretation is simultaneous to the native speech.

Consecutive interpretation is where the interpreter listens to the speaker, and then relays the speaker’s words in the target language during breaks or pauses. In other words, the original speech and the translation are consecutive.

When can simultaneous interpretation be used?

Simultaneous interpretation is the preferred method for meetings with large amounts of people, exchanges with more than one target language, or conversations where a great deal of information must be transmitted quickly. For example, the United Nations uses simultaneous interpretation for meetings.

There are both positive and negative aspects to this form of interpretation.Because the participants usually wear headphones, there’s no limit on the number of people involved. Simultaneous interpretation also transmits information as quickly as possible, and it provides smooth, fluid translation in which the speaker doesn’t need to pause.

However, simultaneous interpretation does require additional expenses and preparations to use the necessary audio equipment. And interpreters don’t get a break, so more than one interpreter may be needed for long meetings. Many people also consider it less personal than consecutive interpretation, because the participants are wearing headphones instead of listening to each other directly.

When can consecutive interpretation be used?

Consecutive interpretation is ideal for smaller groups or one-on-one situations, such as an interview, medical or legal appointment, teleconference, business meeting, or press conference. This method offers both benefits and drawbacks.

Consecutive interpretation conveys a more personal touch than simultaneous interpretation, and it is ideal for one-on-one exchanges between individuals. In potentially sensitive conversations or negotiations, consecutive interpretation allows more time for the participants to reflect before speaking.

But there are constraints on consecutive interpretation as well. Only a limited number of people (usually just two or three) are able to participate in the exchange. It’s much slower than simultaneous interpretation, and it can be difficult to use this method for exchanges where a large amount of information is being transmitted.

Though similar, these methods each offer their own set of challenges and strengths – and TikkTalk offers both.
TikkTalk allows you to easily post interpretation assignments and define the interpretation method you need so you can find your perfect interpreter. Do you have any questions? Or do you want to learn more about how TikkTalk empowers your business through cross-cultural communication?

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