Simultaneous, consecutive, and whispered interpreting – What is the difference between them?

Find out what each one means, when they are most effectively applied, and the technical specifics for each type.

Conferences, seminars, congresses, or training sessions. All of these events, while different in purpose, audience, or venue where they are held, have one common goal: a message is being shared by a speaker (or several) to a given target-audience. When part or all of that audience does not speak the same language as the speaker, it becomes imperative to have interpreting (translation) and the aim of this article is to let you know the differences – and goals – of each of the three types of interpreting: simultaneous, consecutive, and whispered. 

Before going into detail on each of them, there is one aspect to bear in mind: the speaker’s tone and intention must be an integral part of the translation to make sure the content is shared. The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) sets important guidelines followed by our team and which can be viewed here

With this important principle laid down, let us take a look at simultaneous interpreting. The name gives us a clue as to what it is; basically, the speaker’s message is conveyed at the same time as they are giving their speech, practically in real time. This type of interpreting allows for a better understanding of the event and is therefore the ideal strategy for large-scale events such as congresses, seminars, or conferences. It requires technical support, from soundproof translation boots to dedicated equipment and professionals. If you need specialist assistance to find out if this is the type of service required for your event, you can count on our 20-year plus experience in conference interpreting to assess your needs and respond in the best way for you. Please get in touch through the email or learn more about our history here.

Whispered interpreting (also known as “chuchotage”) is similar to simultaneous interpreting, but for smaller groups of people (1 or 2 people at most). As implied, the interpreter will whisper the speaker’s message to the intended audience and must be close-by.

Lastly, we have consecutive interpreting. 

In this format, the speaker will pause during their speech, allowing the interpreter to speak and based on their notes reproduce the message in the intended language. This type of interpreting is more about sharing the message rather than the entire speech and does not require a booth, thereby it is more suited to smaller-scale events, such as training sessions or meetings.

To sum up, and picking up on an initial point, the three types of event interpreting have different characteristics and the choice depends on the type of event and number of participants. What they have in common is the responsibility of sharing the message in a comprehensive and coherent way, and a close relation between the client and interpreter is fundamental. You can count on the CRISTBET team’s vast and proven experience to make your event a success! Learn more about our interpreting services here.