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Dear interpreters, could you name the problems that you face during consecutive interpretation? I want to know what kind of problems occur during your interpretation:for ex. Note-taking problems,some distracting noise or maybe unknown words etc. and it would be great if you give some examples from your personal experience!Thanks in advance!

asked 29 Apr '13, 05:44

Linguist's gravatar image


edited 30 Apr '13, 10:57

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Delete ♦

Dear linguist, could you be more specific? I guess there's more to your question. A mere list as an answer might not be entirely satisfactory nor really constructive.

(29 Apr '13, 10:47) Gaspar ♦♦

To name a few :

Listening / Note taking

  • Fast speaking speaker, hard to interrupt / to slow down if the chair doesn't signal him
  • Speaker forgetting about the interpreter and going on and on
  • Speaker stopping too often and/or too early (before you get to understand the idea he's explaining)
  • Chair, panelists or delegates chatting while you're trying to listen

Reading / Remembering

  • Bad links, not knowing who does what to whom / what has to be changed because of what and by whom / ...
  • Forgetting tenses (changes done, being done or to be done?)
  • Indecipherable symbols or abbreviations - and putting on a perfect poker face instead of facial expressions that would indicate to the entire audience that your are TOTALLY lost: Double effort.


  • Being listened to (lately, we had a room of 100, with 80 francophones chattering while my colleague was trying to talk loud enough to be understood by the remaining 20 anglophone delegates).
  • Not being interrupted by the speaker (they'll tend to take back the floor when you pause for longer than 0.5 seconds. When you are trying to decipher your notes, the pause is often mistaken - people think you're done).
  • Managing to focus when your speaker turns out to be fluent enough in your target language to interrupt you and to correct you (ah, legal conferences!) . And remembering at what point he interrupted you. And getting going again. (And putting aside your pride. If you're confident enough you won't really care and even be grateful if the speaker himself is kind and understanding).


  • Biactives: Going into the right language ;
  • Not running out of paper ;
  • Being prepared to start note taking all the times. Even in a restaurant, after hours, when you have to use your napkin as a notepad (though you always should have a small Moleskine notepad in your jacket) and you colleague's back as a support.
  • During Q&A's, when speaker replies in a different language than the one he usually speaks. It might (shouldn't!) happen that you won't be listening from the beginning, since your brain will tell you that you don't need to interpret his intervention.
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answered 29 Apr '13, 14:13

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Gaspar ♦♦

wikified 11 Jun '13, 15:40

Lately I also had to deal with a mildly senile +80 y.o. person(a non-grata) who bursted into the conference room and would try to interrupt regularly whoever was talking, shouting sexist comments at the ladies present. Within the structure of the organization, he was outranking the chairman who therefore didn't really dare to ask him to keep quiet. There were a few "the interpreter would kindly ask the delegate to let him finish before taking the floor" to be heard during that session. The main hurdle was to be polite yet firm... and not start giggling like the rest of the attendance.

In a nutshell: You'll face a huge variety of difficulties. Listing them all is impossible. :-)

(29 Apr '13, 16:45) Gaspar ♦♦

Voici quelques expériences personnelles:

  • Je travaille de moins en moins en consécutive. Je le regrette. Mais l'interprétation consécutive prend du temps et aujourd'hui le temps compte beaucoup (trop?) pour nos clients. Mais je fais des exercices régulièrement, malgré tout. Je courre le risque de perdre la pratique et la rapidité.

  • Je dois toujours faire attention avec la dernière phrase. Il m'arrive de ne plus pouvoir lire les notes prises à la fin du discours.

  • Il m'est arrivé que l'orateur me demande, après son discours de 10 minutes, de le résumer en 5 minutes parce qu'il était trop long. Ceci me pose un problème éthique (who am I ?) et professionnel (ce genre de synthèse est une autre discipline). Solution: J'essaie de résumer les structures (non le contenu) et faire une consécutive qui dure un peu moins que le discours original (8 min au lieu de 10). Une consécutive ne doit jamais être plus longue que l'original. Aujourd'hui personne n'a ni le temps ni la patience d'écouter.

  • Pendant l'interprétation consécutive, les participants ont tendance à regarder l'interprète au lieu de l'orateur. Solution: Je me tourne vers l'orateur de temps en temps pendant la consécutive. Instinctivement, les participants suivent mon regard.

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answered 29 Apr '13, 13:28

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edited 30 Apr '13, 09:58

Angela, merci beaucoup pour ton aide:)je parle francais tres mal c'est pourquoi je ne peux pas dire beaucoup de choses:( Gaspar, thank you very much!You've helped me a lot:)I'm writing a thesis work on this theme and i have to ask professinal interpreters about thier problems!I liked your answer:)and your examples!thanks once again!!

(30 Apr '13, 10:32) Linguist

The worst experience I ever had during consecutive interpretation was standing on stage next to the speaker but not being able to hear properly what he was saying.

What had happened?

He was using a microphone but all the loudspeakers were directed towards the audience and not a single one was facing into my direction. So no matter how often I asked him to repeat, I could hardly hear him - which was particularly awful since everybody else in the assembly hall was able to hear him well and could not understand why I couldn't. You can imagine how I felt.

Ever since that day I always make sure I can have a proper sound check with someone standing next to me on stage speaking into the microphone and I always check the loudspeakers and ask for at least one to point back into my direction. I also prefer to have an extra (standing) microphone so I don't have to use the same microphone the speaker is using (who might require a different height or which might be tuned to a man's voice rather than a woman's).


Sometimes we are told that certain parts of a discussion need not be interpreted - nevertheless I have learned the hard way that it is better to take notes nonetheless because on more than one occasion people decided after a longish intervention that they would prefer to have it interpreted after all .....

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answered 21 May '13, 20:04

AlmuteL's gravatar image


edited 21 May '13, 20:15

I want to know what kind of problems occur during your interpretation:for ex. Note-taking problems,some distracting noise or maybe unknown words etc. and it would be great if you give some examples from your personal experience!Thanks in advance!

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answered 29 Apr '13, 12:50

Linguist's gravatar image


Your pen/pencil might now function properly. It is relieving to carry a few redundant ones just in case.

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answered 11 Jun '13, 08:59

dilsayar's gravatar image


could you help me, i was writing research paper on Linguistic peculiarities of Consecutive interpreting. so what is your advise, where i can get information or what can i use???

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answered 23 Feb '15, 12:56

Nursultan%20%20Sadykov's gravatar image

Nursultan S...

Hi Nursultan,

most contributors here are conference interpreters and not researchers. What publications have you read so far? What are you writing about exactly?

(23 Feb '15, 13:20) Gaspar ♦♦

Number one problem: ambiguity during a Spanish-speaking witness' testimony

I'm a court interpreter and the most frustrating consecutive interpreting is undoubtedly when I have to interpret testimony from a Spanish-speaker into English who tells a story about himself/herself and several other people and doesn't use pronouns or proper nouns. This is the worst, especially if they are emotional and speak really fast. The result is that I sometimes have no idea who did what to whom. Certain verbs can refer to various subjects "he/she/you/it" and although the speaker knows who the subject is, the interpreter may get completely lost. The speakers often have false starts and stops and end up talking in circles. An example of ambiguity is something like:

Su esposa escuchó cuando estaban hablando y pues, mi esposo, o sea sabía que le dijo todo, pero cuando la novia llegó con su primo era el colmo. Dijo que no podía pagarnos y que tenía que terminar de pagar primero a sus amigos que le prestaron dinero.

This is how a lot of people talk when they are given permission to explain their version of something that happened instead of answering specific questions. The result is often an answer like the one above. The main problem is that although context may shed some light on who said what, the lack of pronouns and proper nouns makes it so easy to become confused. Many other languages, such as English, require a pronoun and are not this ambiguous. When the interpreter asks the speaker to please use proper names, the speaker usually does it a few times and then goes back to his or her normal way of speaking. I can simultaneously interpret a speaker who is clear for a long time and never ask to for a clarification, but when I consecutively interpret a speaker who uses ambiguous verbs and talks in circles, I end up asking for clarification constantly. This happened today. I'm venting.

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answered 10 Mar '17, 01:24

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question asked: 29 Apr '13, 05:44

question was seen: 31,959 times

last updated: 10 Mar '17, 01:24

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