Simultaneous translation or simultaneous interpretation?

Discover the correct term and associated challenges

An old saying goes that “if you can’t explain something in a simple way, then you don’t fully understand it”. Although this assumption can be questioned, we will use it to begin this article with a short and direct answer: “simultaneous interpretation” is the correct expression and it refers to the work done by someone who listens to what a certain person says, in a specific language of origin, and interprets it simultaneously, in oral form, for an audience into another language, the target language. Translation is part of the process, yes, however, the complexity of the task requires more than the translation part: it is necessary to convey the message, its tone, the associated emotions and the nuances of meaning that different expressions have in a given language. Returning to the beauty of simplicity: “translation” refers to written texts, “simultaneous interpretation” is something more comprehensive and refers to orality. Ultimately, there is no such thing as “simultaneous translation”, unless we want to talk about an automatic and computerized translation tool, such as the one found on video websites, but which fails precisely because it is literal, direct and simplistic, often incorrect.

But… I see a lot of “simultaneous translation” offers. Why?

It is common to see the expression “simultaneous translation” in reference to what, as previously explained, is simultaneous interpretation. At this point, the pragmatism that communication must often entail prevails: “simultaneous translation” is, in effect, a more intelligible term for those who are not so involved with the subject and, as such, it is used to guarantee clarity of the message. Part of the sensitivity of communication work, such as translation or simultaneous interpretation, involves precisely this balance between the correct way of applying the terms and the guarantee that the recipient will understand the message.

And consecutive interpretation, is it the same thing?

Another term you may come across is “consecutive interpretation”. The big difference to simultaneous interpretation lies in the dynamics with which the interpretation is carried out – in consecutive interpretation, as for example, in some press conferences, the speaker speaks in “blocks”, being interspersed by the interpreter who, consecutively, conveys the message that was just spoken into the target language. Simultaneous interpretation is much more complicated, as it is, literally, simultaneous. While the speaker speaks, the interpreter transmits in real time what is being said to an audience that, as a rule, has dedicated headphones to hear the interpretation.

Simultaneous interpretation seems difficult… 

As the end of the previous paragraph suggests, the task of simultaneous interpretation is complex and difficult. In addition to the very specific technical conditions – it is recommended that the interpreter is in a soundproof booth, able to see and listen carefully to the speaker, and the target audience has headphones to receive the interpretation -, the interpreter must fully master both the source and target language, as well as the topic focused, in order to be able to interpret specific jargon, technical terminology or forces of expression. It also requires the sensitivity to absorb and transmit the emotion used in the oratory and the tone with which it is transmitted, ensuring maximum transposition to the target audience, all this in a permanent and consistent way, throughout the entire intervention.

Usually people say that whoever tells a story adds new elements to it, but, in a simultaneous interpretation, nothing can be added. It should be noted that simultaneous interpretation of an event, conference or lecture is fundamental to its success. To ensure this is the case, when looking for a simultaneous interpretation solution, contact a team with solid experience and who can do justice to the relevance of the service – Get in touch with us to ensure that your message reaches more people in a faithful and correct manner.