Simultaneous Interpreting For Live Conferences And Meetings

So you have an event approaching, and you know there will be some guests who cannot speak English. You tried enrolling in a crash course in Chinese, but somehow it was tougher than you realized. What are you going to take a crack at next?

Probably the best plan would be to call a firm that specializes in providing simultaneous interpreters and related equipment for simultaneous interpreting at conferences. Even though the term simultaneous translation is often used, strictly speaking, that's a misnomer. Translation signifies "written" form, whereas interpretation describes the spoken word.

It's important to be sure to request simultaneous interpretation, rather than consecutive interpretation. Simultaneous interpreting allows the conference to move forward at full pace. The audience members will each wear a small headphone or ear piece that permits them to hear the interpreter's voice while the meeting is going on. Consecutive interpretation, in contrast, slows the meeting down to half speed, because the speaker must temporarily stop after each sentence in order for the interpreter to translate.

The interpreting company you speak to will ask you questions about your event:

-- What languages will be spoken?

-- What type of audience will be attending?

-- What is the subject matter of the conference?

-- What is the total number of listeners for each language?

-- How many people will be inside the room total (or how big is the room)?

Let the potential interpreting service provider ask the questions - it's a good way to be sure that they know what they are doing. Many translation providers focus on other areas of language work -- try to find one that concentrates on conference interpreting. Be as specific and precise as you can with your answers.

Be sure this agency will be providing expert conference interpreters. There are several styles of interpreting. Many interpreters who are excellent at, for instance, court interpreting, are poor conference interpreters.

The interpreters must be informed about your subject material. A medical interpreter can probably explain the insides of a person, but may just be clueless about the insides of a computer. Each subject area, especially a technical one, has its own inherent jargon that may be confounding to interpreters not familiar with that specialized arena.

Conference interpreters almost always work as a team of two people per language (or occasionally, three per language in high-stress conditions). Don't try and scrimp by getting a solo interpreter, it nearly always backfires -- an interpreter who's willing to work solo at an all-day conference is probably not very experienced. Remember, your attendees may have spent thousands to be at your event. You want them to be able to understand and enjoy it, so next time they'll come back with their colleagues.

It's a good idea to get quotes from multiple providers, but it's not recommended to make a decision solely on cost. Interpreters aren't like boxes of cornflakes -- each interpreter is different. Each interpreter carries an unique set of strengths and weaknesses.

Matching interpreters to customers is an art that takes years of practice. Choose a firm which you trust to make the best decision for you.

Some tips for ensuring that your simultaneous interpretation function goes without problems: