Markus Wagner Translator booking

A Guide
for interpreting clients

Interpreting is often thought of as an ancillary service. After all -- your main goal is not to fit your conference participants with receivers and headsets, your goal is for your conference to be a success. Yet ignoring the necessity of high-quality interpreting services will take its toll on the conference experience for those who rely on those services. In certain cases, such as criminal proceedings or medical interventions, the skill of the interpreters hired may even decide whether a person lives or dies.

Knowing what makes for high interpreting quality and creating an environment in which it can flourish is no small matter. In fact, this field is still being actively researched by people who are themselves in the interpreting profession. This is no exact science as of yet. What we can do is help you select the method by which our interpreters can use their skills best.

The modes of interpreting

The method of interpreting, what we call the mode, has to be chosen with care. Different modes are suited for different settings. No matter what you might have heard, none of them is "better" or "worse", nor is any of them "the most expensive". This guide aims to give a quick overview on the characteristics of different interpreting modes and types.

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Simultaneous Interpreting

This is probably the most famous and prestigious form of interpreting in use today and is often associated with intergovernmental bodies such as the UN and the EU. We can offer you the same prestigious service. Simultaneous interpreting is the most efficient and seamless mode of interpreting, but requires at least two interpreters to be present per language pair. After a maximum interpreting time of 30 minutes, they have to switch in order to prevent fatigue.

Simultaneous interpreting at the UN

Due to the need for at least two interpreters and the slightly higher per-hour price, simultaneous interpreting might seem expensive at first glance. However, due to the massive time savings compared to consecutive interpreting, often exceeding a factor of two, and due to the resulting smoother conversation flow, simultaneous interpreting can easily come out ahead for you. After all, time is money. We will be more than happy to for both simultaneous and consecutive interpreting, allowing you to decide on the best deal.

Subtypes of Simultaneous Interpreting

Interpreting in a soundproof booth
with space for two interpreters is the form of simultaneous interpreting that ensures the highest quality. It allows interpreters to exchange notes, switch seamlessly, and turn the sound off if one of them has to cough. Also, because ambient noise is eliminated, many interpretation mistakes can be avoided. However, booth set-up may not be possible everywhere.
Chuchotage
or whispered interpreting is simultaneous interpreting without any technical equipment. The interpreter stands beside a group of up to three people and interprets in a low voice. Because no set-up is required, chuchotage can be performed everywhere, including on relatively noise-free factory floors or on any sort of guided tour. It may however be taxing for both the clients and the interpreter if performed for longer periods.
Interpreting through portable receivers and smartphones
may be a good alternative to chuchotage. You may employ any technical service of your choice for providing the necessary devices, or you may let us contact a partner for you. When using a portable receiver, the interpreter speaks into a microphone and everyone with a receiver can hear the interpretation. This allows for larger audience groups. Both mobile and semi-mobile devices can be used for this purpose. The former are ideal for training sessions on factory floors and in other small spaces, while the latter are more suited to small conferences and workshops.

Pros

  • Close to time-neutral; no need to wait for any participant, including the interpreter
  • Perfect for workshop settings; makes for agile and natural conversations, discussions, and debates
  • The go-to choice for conferences and panel discussions

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive per hour (though in most cases the time savings will more than offset this)
  • Technical equipment is required in most cases (though we will if you wish)

Choose simultaneous interpreting in booths, if:

Choose pocket-sized simultaneous solutions, if:

Consecutive Interpreting

Consecutive interpreting is surely the oldest variant of interpreting and utilizes all skills an interpreter needs. Therefore excellent consecutive performance is still the main focus of many interpreting aptitude tests. While many know the ad-hoc version of consecutive interpreting, where individual short fragments or even single sentences are interpreted, the lesser-known version, mainly used in business and official capacities, allows for much longer fragments to be interpreted through the use of a special note-taking technique. Using this technique, and given sufficient training, fragments of up to 30 minutes can be tackled without a significant drop in quality. Nowadays, this is rarely done due to the need for all participants to "wait their turn" for a very long time. The typical fragment length today ranges from two to five minutes, but the technique is still quite the same.

Consecutive interpreting on a notepad

The note-taking technique

The focus of interpreting notes is not delivering an exact transcript of what has been said. Rather, the interpreter, when taking notes, is attempting to handle most of the cognitive load beforehand, so that he can read his processed thoughts back from his notebook a few minutes later. Many interpreters choose to take their notes in the target language, freeing themselves of the need to find appropriate words or formulations while reading back their notes. A common thread in all interpreting notes is a high degree of systematization. Usually, a variant of a Subject-Verb-Object table is used. At Translator Booking, we add a "link" column as the first, where we put conjunctions and other devices for showing the relationship to the other rows.

Another trait of most interpreters' notes is the extensive use of symbols. Through symbols, as well as through a consistent system of abbreviations, it is easy to build a modular "note language", which allows for tremendous flexibility and note-taking speed. While all interpreters use their own techniques, there is no need for us to completely reinvent the wheel. Authors such as Jean-François Rozan and many others have compiled entire collections of symbols and abbreviation systems for interpreters to use. As a client of Translator Booking, you can be sure that we have incorporated many such elements into our own library.

Consecutive interpreting in a business environment

We specialize in offering consecutive interpretation services for business clients. This is because during business negotiations, even in an age of pocket-sized simultaneous technology, consecutive interpreting remains the superior alternative. Consecutive simply allows for full human contact between all participants, a factor that can make or break a business negotiation. It allows both sides to concentrate on the business deal without getting distracted by technology.

Pros

  • Extremely accurate rendering of the original thanks to a note taking technique that has been perfected over many years by experienced interpreters
  • Clarification of earlier statements is easy to accomplish; direct interaction between participants and/or the interpreter is not impeded
  • The interpreter may interpret for longer time periods compared to simultaneous, without suffering fatigue
  • The per-hour price is lower

Cons

  • Compared to native-language communication, communication with the help of a consecutive interpreter is about twice as slow. In contrast, simultaneous interpretation confers nearly no time penalty
  • This method by its nature is ill-suited for very interactive talks that require prompt comprehension of what the speaker is saying
  • Because no devices are used, no sound amplification for noisy environments is available

Choose consecutive interpreting, if:

Sign Language Interpreting

A sign language interpreter in action

Sign language interpreting can be performed in both consecutive and simultaneous modes, often mixed or in a hybrid fashion. It puts up unique challenges to interpreters. Sign language interpreting consists of signing to the deaf party as well as voicing to the hearing party. Like all types of interpreting, it requires a great deal of mental agility.

In the area of Austrian Sign Language we work closely with our partners for an integrated interpreting solution. You may to set up a plan that will work for your conference or any other setting you have in mind.