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March 13, 2015 11:54 am Published by Comments Off on A simple guide to interpreting

Having read our last blog post, you are now fully familiar with the differences between translating and interpreting, and you have come to the conclusion that the professional you need is an interpreter. The next step is to establish which type of interpreting would suit your requirements. If you contact us to assist with your project, we will guide you through the options available. In the meantime, we thought you might be interested to find out more about the main modes of interpreting: consecutive and simultaneous.

Simultaneous interpreting

Simultaneous interpreting is a relatively recent profession that only appeared in the early part of the 20th century. The Nuremberg trial is often referred to as the “official” birthdate of this interpreting mode, however as explained in this UN article and this AIIC article, there are many references to simultaneous interpretation being used well before 1945.Interpreters booth

In the simultaneous mode, interpreters translate orally the sentence into the target language, as quickly as they can, while simultaneously listening to and comprehending the next sentence.  This mode requires the use of sophisticated sound equipment: interpreters are typically working in sound-proof booths and speak into a microphone, while hearing the source language speaker via headphones. This allows the speaker to speak without interruption, and the attendants listen uninterrupted through headphones. As this mode requires intense concentration, simultaneous interpreters always work in teams of two as they cannot interpret for more than approximately 30 minutes without a break. One of the main qualities simultaneous interpreters possess is their ability to make decisions quickly, as they cannot take the time to think about a word or a sentence without risking missing the following part of the speech.

The simultaneous mode is generally used for large conferences or meetings.

Consecutive interpreting

In consecutive interpreting, the interpreter takes notes of the speech, waits for the speaker to finish a sentence or an idea, and then renders the speaker’s words into the target language. Consecutive interpreters possess excellent note-taking skills and a good memory as, when the speaker pauses, the interpreter must remember all their ideas and then translate them back into the other language.interpreter meeting

Consecutive interpreting is used in smaller groups or meetings, or even between two people who don’t share the same language.  A consecutive interpreter might translate into, and out of, both languages if the setting of their assignment is a bilingual conversation or a Q&A session, for example.

There are also modes such as relay and whispered interpreting, among others. The European commission website gives very useful definitions of these different modes.


When do you need an interpreter? We give you examples of situations where we can help you.

We often provide interpreters to assist our clients during appointments with medical practitioners or medico-legal experts. For example, we recently helped a firm of solicitors and their client with a number of medical examinations with health specialists across the UK, following an accident at work which led to serious leg injuries requiring repeat surgery. Our interpreters facilitated the communication between the patient and the health professionals (a hospital consultant and a neuropsychologist) at a time when professionalism and accuracy but also sensitivity were crucial in order to enable the experts to produce detailed and reliable reports for the court case.

We also provide NRPSI registered interpreters for legal cases and court hearings in which one of the parties doesn’t speak English.  Our interpreters are used to assisting with family cases such as divorce proceedings as well as any other civil or criminal matters.

Insurance companies often call on our services for appointments with policyholders whose mother tongue isn’t English. Usually, these appointments are interviews carried out to confirm the policyholder’s version of events further to a specific accident.

We work with a number of local Councils, health and social services and charities. Our interpreters are often asked to assist with community related assignments and liaise with members of the public who don’t speak English. These assignments can be very varied and range from discussions about care to children to assistance for individuals in vulnerable situations. The subjects of these assignments can be very sensitive, with individuals in extremely vulnerable positions and, for this reason, we will always endeavour to provide specifically a male or a female interpreter if necessary.Community interpreter

Market research companies also take advantage of our interpreting services to conduct research on specific population segments about different products. Our last job had to do with children’s cereals.

For conferences, we provide a full end-to-end package if required, including provision of interpreters and supply of any necessary equipment such as soundproof booths, headsets and microphones.  We facilitate large events such as medical or financial conferences or, as recently, an annual conference gathering European associations for the car body repair and automotive industry.

We are also very proud to work with the one of the most prestigious football clubs in the country. Their interpreting requirements are always out-of-the-ordinary and exciting. For example, a couple of years ago, our interpreters took part in a unique four-day sports event which gathered over fifty football fans from seventeen countries. The event allowed the fans to meet and train alongside the famous club’s players and legends, while competing for the opportunity to take penalty shots at Premier League home match. They also took part in guided tours and dinners with the team. With the help of our interpreters, the foreign fans were able to communicate with their idols, making this event a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Whatever your requirements are, we select the interpreter(s) with the relevant expertise and specialist knowledge to ensure a high quality interpreting service whilst, of course, handling the details of your assignment with the utmost confidentiality.

Please do not hesitate to contact us by email translation@aplin.co.uk or telephone 0800 389 6571 and we will be happy to look into your requirements and provide you with a tailor-made quote for your specific interpreting project.

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