What are the Different Types of Interpretation

Nov 16, 2020

Professional interpreting services greatly benefit organizations, which must manage teams that are both linguistically and geographically diverse. Interpretation services are used all over the world for a wide variety of purposes. However, those purposes are not always similar, and sometimes different types of interpretation are needed.

With that in mind, let’s start off by defining interpretation.

For our discussion in this article, the definition of interpretation is converting spoken words from a source language to a target language. In other words, interpretation is wording in Language A, converted to the equivalent in Language B.

Interpretation services can satisfy a few different needs, and there are several types of interpretation that are designed to fulfill each one. With that in mind, we’ll discuss the different kinds of interpretation, how you can access them, and which might meet your organization’s requirements best.

Related: Is Being Bilingual Enough? How to Become An Interpreter

Consecutive Interpretation

One of the most conventional types of interpretation is consecutive interpretation; a mode of interpreting in which the interpreter waits until the speaker has said a few sentences before interpreting. In this style, the speaker must be able to modify the tone and pace of their speech.

Usually, in consecutive interpretation, the interpreter stands near the speaker. As noted above, the speaker will modify the speech’s pace and may briefly pause after one or two sentences to permit the interpreter to reproduce whatever was said in the target language. The speaker may also speak without interruption for periods of up to five minutes.

In this case, the interpreter will frequently make notes through a unique system. This system consists of symbols that represent words or phrases. Some might consider it a form of short-hand writing. It is designed to help the interpreter not with memorization of the speech, but with the meaning.

In other words, when the interpreter translates the speaker’s statements into the target language, it is not a “word-for-word,” literal translation but is usually a paraphrase that gets the meaning across accurately.

Consecutive interpretation is used when there are meetings, when there are discussions between individuals, and when there are conversations with larger groups. It can be used for video meetings, telephone meetings and can also be used in-person. Situations, where interpreters can commonly use consecutive interpretation , include business presentations, social welfare visits, confidential hearings, discussions between landlords and tenants, medical appointments, and more.

Related: Video Remote Interpreting vs. On Site: When to Use

Need professional interpretation services, but don’t know which type of interpretation is best for your needs? Contact Us and let Liberty Language Services discuss the available options with you.

Simultaneous Interpretation

Another widespread type of interpretation is simultaneous interpretation. This interpretation type is one in which the interpreter is interpreting from Language A to Language B at the same moment the speaker is speaking. (Thus, simultaneously in real-time.) In this style, there is considerable effort to ensure the continued, natural flow of the speaker’s speech rhythm.

Like consecutive interpretation, simultaneous interpretation is often used within the business world. A great example and a typical situation in which simultaneous interpretation is used is an international conference.

It’s normal for speakers to get up on stage during the meeting and speak to the audience in their native language. Around the room, interpreters sit in booths to interpret the speaker’s words so that members of the audience can listen in their own native languages.

One of the best things about this style of interpretation is that speakers don’t have to modify their tone or pace of speech. Instead, they talk as they normally would in everyday speech. Typically, interpreters who perform simultaneous interpretations have undergone strict training regimens to ensure they can handle the sometimes tricky task of interpreting from one language to another in real-time.

Because this type of interpretation can be intensive and sometimes exhausting, interpreters often work in pairs and trade-off every 20-25 minutes.

Relay Interpretation

Multiple interpreters take part in relay interpretation. This form can encompass both consecutive and simultaneous interpretation. In essence, one interpreter will interpret the speaker’s words, and then another interpreter will interpret the first interpreter’s words.

An example of this might be where a speaker is speaking in Mandarin Chinese, and one interpreter translates the speaker’s words into English. Another interpreter then translates English into Spanish, another into Russian, and another into Hindi.

Liaison Interpretation

This type of interpretation is viewed as the most informal of all interpretation methods. It’s usually used during small business meetings or when there is a visiting government delegation. The interpreter essentially follows the group or delegation around and interprets whenever needed. If there are business negotiations, the interpreter will commonly sit at the table with the parties conducting negotiations.

Over the Phone Interpretation

Over-the-Phone (OPI) interpretation is a means of providing interpretation via telephone or video call. A phone interpreter needs to be skilled and well-trained since there are usually no non-verbal cues that can give context to what the speaker is saying.

Additionally, the subject matter should be something with which the phone interpreter is familiar. The interpreter also needs to know and understand any industry-specific jargon in both the source and target languages.

Note: This applies to any type of interpretation, not just OPI.

Travel or Escort Interpretation

Very similar to Liaison Interpretation, travel or escort interpretation is different in that interpreters must go along with clients to various venues and events. Venues, where escort interpretation is common, include sightseeing trips, cultural events, business dinners, and more.

Which is the Best Type of Interpretation for You?

Think about the basics when considering the type of interpretation that best suits your business needs. What do you need to achieve? What overall format are you going to use for events? If it’s all one-way communication, then simultaneous interpretation may be best. At the same time, if you must have a conversation where information is coming in from multiple sources, then a consecutive interpretation service may be in order.

Regardless of your business’s needs, if you want to communicate clearly and effectively in more than one language, you would be wise to choose a professional interpretation service like those provided by Liberty Language Services.

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