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Tbh, I had never heard of it before but I am currently reading a master's thesis tutored by Pöchhacker which claims that this new form of consecutive interpretation is a trend which has been around (largely unnoticed) for the past ten years.

  • My preliminary understanding (haven't read all of it, yet) is that you record the speaker (with your iphone or a dictaphone) and then go to the rostrum and interpret simultaneously using a headset in front of the audience.

Whilst I must admit I've never been utterly keen on consecutive (which has not improved given that 99% of my freelance work tends to be simultaneous) and I therefore find the idea appealing I have strong doubts over its feasibility (buzzwords being non-verbal communication, consecutive as the bee's knees in interpreter performance or, to put it differently, the test-bench for students' cognitive processing skills, interaction with the audience etc.).

What do you think?

a) Has anyone ever heard of it or seen it?

Please do feel free to comment even if this is not the case since this might provide a clearer picture as to the prevalence of this allegedly new form of interpretation (Then again - as we say in German "Keine Antwort ist auch eine Antwort";)

b) Do you think it will catch on?

asked 28 Jul '12, 14:15

Tanja's gravatar image


edited 28 Oct '12, 10:57

Delete's gravatar image

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I've seen a presentation, but have not used it. I don't know whether it will catch on. It has been there for more than 10 years and is not very popular...yet. But it's already a good training tool for conference interpreters.

Thanks to Andy Gillies you'll find two comprehensive reports on AIIC's facebook page:

  1. Simultaneous consecutive interpreting: It was developed in 1999 by Michele Ferrari, a staff interpreter at the EU Commission. He recorded a speech he was to interpret consecutively on a PDA and listened back to it on earphones while reading back from his consecutive notes. Find out more (pics, links, interviews):

    Simultaneous consecutive interpreting

  2. A Smart Pen can digitally record both the speech and the interpreter’s notes, so the interpreter can not only listen again to the speech, but also choose which parts to listen to as the audio recording is digitally linked to the notes recorded at the same time. Touch your notes on the (special) paper and you’ll hear what was said when you made that note:

    Smart Pen

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answered 28 Jul '12, 14:39

Angela's gravatar image


edited 28 Jul '12, 14:40

Just a quick comment on the second point. As Angela correctly pointed out, the Smart Pen makes an audio recording of the speech. However, for the purpose of simultaneous consecutive, the interpreters uses that audio recording (hence the term sim. cons.) and not the paper. The idea is that you connect earphones to the pen and then interpret simultaneously. You can even adapt the playback speed (slower for figures or difficult terms, faster for redundant bits). AFAIK, Michele Ferrari also uses the Smart Pen during interpretation tests. Clever use!

(02 Aug '12, 05:38) Alexander

I strongly believe that these modalities can co-exist. Those of us who “grew up” with Consec would call it “classic”, rather than old-fashioned. ;)

I’ve been using Sim-consec, providing training for it and talking to developers for a while. I would say I’ve been working with it since the early part of this century. ;) However, just like all change… it takes time. Nevertheless, I think the time for this modality has come, and just as my colleague Martin has mentioned, there is no turning back.

When you think of it, it took a while for Simul to take hold (same for the technology that came along with it). It is no different with this modality and the tools/technology/equipment being used with it.

I started working in Sim-consec with a digital recorder first and have been working with the Smartpen for the past few years. I introduced the latter at MIIS in 2011, and it is indeed a great tool for training. The Sim-consec modality, like all others, has its challenges. These challeges reside in exacting the same level of quality with this new technique as we are accustomed to providing with all others PLUS having a solid foundation in the interpreting “classics” before attempting to work with the new technologies. In other words, do not try this at home folks, unless you’ve put yourself through the paces. :)

The challenges are the same as with anything else in our profession: learning, adapting and educating. The rest, as they say, will be history.

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answered 23 Aug '12, 10:05

MmeInterpreter's gravatar image



Thank you Exceed, you are certainly a good sparring partner, and thank you Tanja also. Mme Interpreter and I are working on something, in response to Tanja, but the truth is I have met so many interested parties, and a few have also purchased smartpens, yet they lack the confidence to go out into the field and use it. We feel a personal approach is what is needed, and we hope to be on tour when the time is right. Also, I am engaging (with few results for now) with the developers, as - in answer to Exceed, I am a firm believer in traditional Consecutive too. I say so respectfully, and in the full knowledge that this classic technique still cannot be replaced entirely. Suffice it to mention copyright issues and royalties when recording...furthermore, the notes you take in sim-consec do not differ from the ones you are taught at school. So that is here to stay, Exceed. However, conference work is changing: they are shorter, sleeker, and a booth represents here in Europe a cost equivalent to three days' work of one interpreter. Clearly we need to adapt. Saying "well, I'll just interrupt the speaker", or causing a fuss to get hold of a long list of names of foreign football players in a press conference threatening that without "I cannot translate properly" may easily cross the line between responsibility and laziness. Where there is an alternative way, we have a duty to explore, and the Possibilities are Endless: personal sound booths, long range microphones, and so much more, all live in my bag. Tradition must never mean stubbornness, and this I do feel strongly about. We all know techniques are never perfect, it is all a path, and must engage in the battles of our time, i.e. software replacements, client management in the most unobtrusive of ways, and live in a general awareness that we are service providers, not primadonnas, and that our market will not stay alive long unless we provide excellence. This I do feel strongly about...

(23 Aug '12, 12:02) bigcitymartin

I have neither used it nor seen it used. It sounds like a great training tool indeed! I wouldn't be surprised if it caught on, even after 10 years, as people increasingly embrace technology to communicate in new ways. I'm thinking about mobile phones featuring Facetime, Skype, and the like.

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answered 01 Aug '12, 20:38

Laura's gravatar image


Don't you think that the EU might take a rather dim look of such practices when attempted during the accreditation test?

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answered 03 Aug '12, 04:39

exceed's gravatar image


edited 03 Aug '12, 13:14

I am sure you would not be allowed to use such alternative techniques.

(03 Aug '12, 06:07) Alexander

Hello All,

I use it, teach it and and trying to work with developers - all since 2005 ish. It works, bringing the accuracy of Sim into the time requirements of Consec. BUT the devil is in the detail. The major obstacle (as, most will recall, with electronic dictionaries) is that people want it described, and remain doubtful. The devil is in the detail of the device(s) used, too, and this is the greatest innovation since the Simultaneous console. The biggest obstacle is a conservative attitude at the highest level of the profession, more prone to modifying the way the client wants their conference than adapting to their needs. As with pcs, soon it will be a matter of "if you don't have it, choose to be left behind". Sorry if this is radical, but if you saw you would see what I mean. And you did ask me for my opinion...

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answered 23 Aug '12, 09:00

bigcitymartin's gravatar image


Seems radical indeed. Consecutive interpreting stood the test of time despite some major advances in technology. We can label it old fashioned all we want but consecutive interpreting as we know it isn't going anywhere. If anything, it is likely to flourish as it doesn't require any special equipment and it that sense is 'cheaper'.

On the other hand, I hope that Bigcitymartin's theory proves to be right.

(23 Aug '12, 09:22) exceed

Thank you so much - that is extremely interesting. Also: Quote/unquote: "Sorry if this is radical, but if you saw it you would see what I mean. " -> I would love to see how this works, any chance of youtube recordings/demo?

(23 Aug '12, 10:24) Tanja
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