Frequently Asked Questions about Conference Interpreting
What is simultaneous
Simultaneous Interpreting is
when an interpreter listens to a presentation and relays it in
another language with no significant delay.
What other types of
interpreting are there?
This is where the presenter pauses after each phrase or sentence
to allow the interpreter time to relay it into the other language.
Although this is generally less expensive than simultaneous
interpreting, the meeting will take twice as long as normal, and
it can only be used when there are a maximum of two languages
(usually English plus one other).
Are all simultaneous
interpreters the same?
Simultaneous interpreting is
the most difficult form of interpreting. Only a small percentage
of interpreters can truly interpret simultaneously, that is:
listen to someone speaking one language, and, without pausing,
speak the same idea in another language.
A professional simultaneous
interpreter should be able to speak both languages fluently,
without a strong accent that would make him or her hard to
understand. The best interpreters also speak in an interesting way
so that their voices are a pleasure to listen to.
If your event will be
discussing 'technical' subjects make sure you let us know when you
request interpreters, so we can select those who have a background
in your subject area. An interpreter who is very knowledgeable in
legal matters may not be the best person for an electronics
How many interpreters
will I need?
generally work in pairs. This form of interpreting is very
concentration-intensive, so the interpreters will normally work as
a 'tag team' to cover the sessions. If the meeting lasts less than
1 hour, it may be possible for a single interpreter to cover it.
For top-level events, such as government conferences, a team of 3
may be required. You might also need a team of 3 if the working
day is very long. Most interpreters expect a working day to be
between 6 and 8 hours of actual meeting time. Of course, if you
have more than one room requiring interpreting at the same time,
or more than one foreign language, you will need more teams of
Tip: To keep expenses down,
try to plan the schedule so that the meetings requiring
interpreting take place one after the other, in the same room,
rather than all at the same time in different rooms.
Can the same person be
used to interpret from English to Spanish and from Spanish to
English, for example?
Some interpreters are
equally comfortable in both directions, others prefer to work only
into their mother tongue. If you expect to need interpreting in
both directions, be sure to let us know.
What kind of support will
interpreters need to do their best work?
The most important support
you can give your interpreters is written materials to prepare
from. We cannot stress enough the importance of helping the
interpreters prepare themselves for your conference. If possible,
we recommend that you supply us with advance scripts of the
presentations. If these are not available, you should procure
abstracts, copies of overheads or PowerPoints that will be used,
sales brochures, and a list of acronyms and abbreviations that may
come up. You should also let us know of any web-sites that would
give us background information. All materials should reach us at
least a week before the first day of interpreting.
Expect to provide meals and
refreshments and drinking water for your interpreters while they
are working, and if they have been flown in from another city, you
will need to provide all other meals too.
At meal and break times,
remember to give your interpreters a break too. Do not expect them
to do informal interpreting at the meal table for instance. By
lunch-time, their brains may need to be 'de-fried', and that
requires taking a break from thinking! If necessary, we can hire
bi-lingual hosts to help facilitate meal-time conversations. Hosts
are often available at much lower rates than professional
What else will I need?
interpreting, you will also need to rent
equipment so that your delegates can hear the interpreter's