Interpretation is the art of translating speech from a speaker’s language to an audience’s. But what types of interpretation are right for you?
Interpretation is no easy task. At a minimum, interpreters must demonstrate fluency and an ability to deliver accurate word-for-word translations – regardless of interpretation style. But depending on the specific type of interpreting, interpreters also require superb recall, notation, public speaking, and multitasking skills.
Most interpretation falls under two larger umbrella categories: simultaneous and consecutive interpretation. Within those two categories, there are six other main styles of interpretation you can choose from.
What’s the Difference Between Interpretation and Translation?
Translation is direct word-for-word translation of written material like documents, subtitles, websites, or books.
Interpretation centers on translating speech from the speaker’s language to another, often in real time.
Learn more about the difference between interpretation and translation here.
What are the different types of interpretation?
There are two types of interpretation rhythms – consecutive and simultaneous. The remaining six types of interpretation are determined by context, and use either simultaneous or consecutive interpreting.
1. Consecutive Interpretation
Consecutive interpretation takes place in pauses designated by the speaker. Usually these pauses come at the end of speaker ‘paragraphs,’ or every 1 to 5 minutes.
Consecutive interpreters must be highly skilled at notetaking, as they’re expected to translate all their speakers’ thoughts with precision. Consecutive interpreting gives interpreters more time to contextualize a sentence’s meaning within the greater context of the speaker’s speech. The additional time and context sometimes allows consecutive interpreter to achieve a greater level of precision than simultaneous interpreters. However, this also means consecutive interpreters must be skilled note takers, often with their own shorthand to increase accuracy.
You’ll usually find consecutive interpreters in business settings with smaller audiences, where there’s more time available for interpreting.
2. Simultaneous Interpretation
Simultaneous interpreters speak in parallel with the speaker, only lagging behind by a few seconds to contextualize their translations.
This type of interpretation requires a high degree of focus and an ability to listen, contextualize meaning, and speak all at once.
Also known as ‘Conference Interpreting,’ simultaneous interpretation is often used in conference settings. Conferences opt for simultaneous interpretation when there’s a large audience and no time to pause every five minutes for interpretation. Many digital conference platforms – like Zoom – offer interpretation channels to make simultaneous interpretation even easier.
Learn more about How to Use Zoom’s Interpreting Channel.
Simultaneous interpretation isn’t paraphrasing – it’s precision-oriented, real-time word-for-word translation. The best simultaneous interpreters have a great memory and are able to multitask (listen, contextualize, and speak) with ease. Simultaneous interpretation often requires headsets and microphones, which interpreters use to transmit their interpretations on designated channels for their audience.
3. Whisper Interpretation
Whisper interpretation often uses simultaneous interpretation. The main difference? Whether consecutive or simultaneous, whisper translation is usually 1:1 interpretation, rather than for a large audience.
The interpreter sits next to their client and discretely interprets the speakers’ words in real time. Whisper interpretation is used in settings with smaller audiences or when one individual requires interpretation.
Whisper interpreting is often used in courtrooms, if there’s an audience member who needs a quiet interpretation of the proceedings.
4. Escort/Travel Interpretation
People may choose to use escort interpreting – also known as Travel Interpreting –when in need of assistance during overseas travel. Travel interpreters act as interpreters – operating simultaneously or consecutively as the situation dictates – but also as cultural liaisons.
Because their duties include those of cultural liaisons, a travel interpreter’s duties can range from helping a client order a meal and navigate the area, to aiding in 1:1 interpretation in business settings.
5. Onsite Interpretation
Onsite interpretation refers to interpreting done on location, rather than over the phone or video call. This type of interpretation includes both consecutive and simultaneous interpretation, distinguishing itself in terms of its location.
When interpreters can’t conduct your interpretation over the phone, you likely need onsite interpretation. So if you’re looking for onsite interpreters, it’s vital to determine where the interpreter is based out of.
6. Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)
Video remote interpreting refers to interpreting done over video platforms, like Zoom or Blue Jeans. Like onsite interpretation, VRI uses both simultaneous and consecutive interpretation depending on the context.
VRI uses web devices with cameras to help those hard of hearing or who speak a different language. With different interpreting channels interpreters can transmit their interpretation simultaneously on a channel specific to their audience.
7. Scheduled Telephone Interpreting (OPI)
Scheduled Telephone Interpreting, also known as Over the Phone Interpreting (OPI) can be either consecutive or simultaneous. If simultaneous, your over the phone interpreter needs to have their equipment set up so they can hear the original language in one piece and speak their interpretation into another.
If the interpreter can’t receive visual cues from the speaker, the accuracy of simultaneous OPI might be lower than consecutive OPI. More often than not, OPI uses consecutive interpretation.
OPI mainly distinguishes itself from on demand interpreting by scheduling, relying on a system of appointments.
8. On Demand Phone Interpreting
On Demand Phone Interpreting reflects unscheduled, real time interpreting over the phone. Similar to OPI, interpreters can perform on demand interpreting consecutively or simultaneously.
On demand phone interpreting usually occurs in settings where an individual or company needs a language barrier addressed immediately. The service will contact one of their on-demand interpreters to help out. On-demand interpreters are often used in customer-service call centers, pharmacies, companies, medical institutions, law firms, and insurance claims when individuals often work with limited English proficiency (LEP) populations.
What Should You Look for in an Interpreter?
Well, it depends on your needs. Different types of interpretation require different skill sets, so it’s important to know the skills required for each. While language proficiency and a cool head under pressure is helpful, many overlook the importance of expertise in subject matter. It’s highly beneficial to find interpreters who understand your industry, lending them a deeper understanding of contextualized jargon across languages.
Skilled interpreters should be certified for your industry – especially if you’re working in the legal or medical world. Interpreters require extraordinary listening and public speaking skills. Also critical is a deep understanding of idioms, slang, and culture-specific references. Together, these skills enable interpreters to translate clearly and precisely to parallel meanings across cultures.
Looking for skilled, certified interpreters? Give us a call. With a network of over 5,000 passionate and people-first interpreters and translators, specializing in 200+ unique languages and dialects around the globe – We at Arriva would love to help.