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CI is mostly used at press conferences, among other situations. But why so? Do you think there is a specific reason for this mode choice, or is it only used because the venue does not have a booth / it would be too expensive to rent the equipment for a one-hour press conference?

asked 28 Oct '13, 03:49

Lauren_'s gravatar image


retagged 28 Oct '13, 04:39

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

There are two more aspects:

1.) There might be situations when the client wants to make sure the interpretation is really correct (e.g. depositions, court proceedings). People not used to checking the quality of simultaneous interpretation find it much easier to check the quality of consecutive interpretation and send bilingual experts to do so.

2.) Clients are often fully aware of the fact that getting a message across in consecutive mode takes twice as long - or looking at it from another angle, you may only have to answer half as many questions during the time available... so sometimes we know we are providing consecutive interpretation because it may be convenient for the organiser to have to allow for more time for interpretation.

Consecutive is also becoming more popular again in Germany. However, these assignments are no longer just the nice and friendly dinner speeches, receptions and opening ceremonies we used to practice as students. In actual fact some of the consecutive assignments tend to be extremely technical and can take several hours or even days!. It is then that I stongly recommend to have two or more interpreters on the job - as we would have for simultaneous interpretation - who take turns of 20 to 30 minutes.

There are also assignments where part of an event is to be interpreted simultaneously for a small group of participants and whenever a member of this group wants to take the floor, consecutive interpretation needs to be provided (hiring 300 headsets - for example - is much more expensive than paying the surcharge for consecutive). I personally find it very hard to switch from simultaneous to consecutive (the other way round - funnily enough - is not a problem for me). I'd be interested to hear whether other colleagues have found the same phenomenon to be true. So for this type of assignment it is also helpful to have at least two interpreters - one for consecutive only and one to two for simultaneous. Again, we have seen such events take several hours without a break! So I think we need to rethink the team strength standards for consecutive.

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answered 28 Oct '13, 20:05

AlmuteL's gravatar image


edited 28 Oct '13, 20:16

Thank you, AlmuteL. The situations I was referring to are for example press conferences for a movie or before a football match, where consecutive tends to be more common than simultaneous (but that's not always the case). Your point 2) sounds very interesting in this respect.

(29 Oct '13, 01:45) Lauren_

Hi Lauren - it depends of the country and the client... but yes, very often it's not economically interesting to rent booths for a short event like a press conference. In some cases, wireless ("tour guide style") equipment is used (in French we call them "bidule") - people wear wireless headsets and the interpreter speaks into a microphone in "almost" simultaneous. It's not optimum, you usually sit in a corner with your mike and whisper into it while listening to the "room sound"... meaning you sometimes have trouble hearing what is said, in the overall brouhaha.

Still, it"s becoming fairly common - I work freelance and more and more of my clients (chambers of commerce, sports convention centres, companies) have invested in their own wireless equipment (you can get a set of 50 wireless transmitters and two wireless microphones for about 2 000 Euros, they are not as good as the super-duper Sennheiser EK, but they do the job for a tenth of the price).

Sadly, this also means that booths are going the way of the Dodo and we sometimes have to fight against being forced to use "bidule" over an entire day (or numerous days) simply because the client does not want to pay for the booth.

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answered 28 Oct '13, 04:05

Gregor_Seither's gravatar image


Thank you for your exhaustive reply, Gregor. I was wondering whether consecutive is more suitable for press conferences for some other reasons than the costs for renting a booth. From your reply, I gather there's no other particular reason, is there?

(28 Oct '13, 04:14) Lauren_

Well, consec is only justifiable when then speech being interpreted is short (a welcome speech for officials or the like) - if the speakers intend to speak for more than 15 minutes, I would advocate AT LEAST "bidule" since it saves time and is less tedious.

But it all boils down to logistics (and costs)... as well as old habits. Wireless tour guide equipment has only recently become less bulky and more affordable so "older" clients may still be used to the equation : static setup = booth / mobile setup = tour guide equipment.

If I look at recent quotes, here in Lille : renting a booth (including the technician to set it up) will cost you a minimum of 1,500 Euros per day and requires at least two hour prior to the event for setup and configuration of equipment. In comparison, you can rent a wireless device for 10 Euros per day and 50 Euros for the wireless microphone. If you only have a small group of people requiring interpretation, you can provide the "same" service as a booth (off course, the quality of the interpretation is not as good as when working out of a booth) for a fraction of the cost.

... and cost is more and more becoming a deciding factor.

(28 Oct '13, 04:27) Gregor_Seither

Thanks for claryfing. So would you personally prefer simultaneous with bidule over consecutive for a one-hour press conference (for, say, a movie premiere)? I was under the impression that consecutive was more common in such contexts because it's also more convenient for journalists who take videos -- they would have the whole source speech as well as the translation, which is useful when editing the video to make a feature. Sorry I inundated you with questions!

(28 Oct '13, 04:40) Lauren_

I have my own "bidule" equipment so usually offer my clients to bring it along..

I have no preference - although I LIKE doing consecutive - and make my decision depending on each situation. If it's a short speech, I go for consec but if there are many speakers/longer period of time I advocate bidule. But for a movie premiere, if the press is recording, it might be easier to do consec as the press does not necessarily have the technical setup to take your interpretation from their wireless headsets..

In "most" case, indeed, for a one-hour press conference, you'll probably be working in consec.

(28 Oct '13, 05:05) Gregor_Seither

Consec might come cheaper than a tour guide system, since you only need one interpreter instead of two.

Advantages, other than financial:

Consecutive is usually more accurate and complete since there is less "tightrope walking" involved: By the time you start your rendition as an interpreter, you already know what the speaker's global message is.

In a Q&A event, the speaker has more time to think of an answer, assuming he or she does understand the source language a bit.

Some might also say that consec in a small groups gives a (better) chance for the interpreter to act as someone who understands cultural differences. Misunderstandings in the room can be spotted easier.

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answered 28 Oct '13, 04:32

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

edited 28 Oct '13, 04:36

Thank you, Gaspar. That's exactly what I was wondering when I asked the question.

(28 Oct '13, 04:42) Lauren_
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question asked: 28 Oct '13, 03:49

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