Interpretation, simultaneous and consecutive

Interpretation is on-the-spot oral translation of the spoken word from one language to another. This is a special skill requiring speed, accuracy and clarity.

Some interpreters translate only into their native language(s), but native-speaker precision plays a less significant role in face-to-face communication than in the written word.

Two main kinds of interpretation

There are two kinds of interpretation: simultaneous and consecutive. Simultaneous interpretation often requires special equipment and is used at large conferences and meetings.

No special equipment is required, however, if the number of people receiving the interpretation is very small; in this case the interpreter simply whispers the interpretation to them without disturbing proceedings. This known as chuchotage.

Consecutive interpreting means the speaker has to pause every now and then to allow the interpreter(s) to translate what has just been said. This is obviously time-consuming.

Court proceedings

When interpretation is used in court proceedings, its accuracy is sometimes monitored by a second interpreter. This is what we might call independent peer review (IPR) in interpretation, and it could be useful in other circumstances where accuracy is vital.


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