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Wikipedia says that conference interpreters work both in consecutive or simultaneous mode. Is that always the case or are there two different kinds of conference interpreters? And is consecutive interpreting ever used at all at conferences? Are interpreters trained for both modes of delivery?

asked 05 Nov '11, 14:35

lGuy's gravatar image


Most interpreters are trained in both simultaneous and consecutive, and including training for both is among AIIC's recommendations for conference interpreter training programs. Consecutive is indeed used at some conferences, but usually conferences with only two languages. Some examples at times when consecutive might be used would be a press conference, a conversation between two heads of state (and their support staff), or a factory visit. Even though most interpreters are trained to do consecutive and simultaneous, the extent to which they do both depends on their market. An interpreter who only works in the UN system can easily go his or her entire career without ever doing consecutive, whereas an interpreter who works for a foreign affairs ministry (i.e. the State Department) will do most of his or her work in consecutive.

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answered 07 Nov '11, 02:17

Jonathan's gravatar image


As Jonathan and Sirpa have said, it's not a requirement but it is useful.

You'll miss many job opportunities if you refuse to work in the classical and most noble interpreting technique.

When is it required

  • bilateral meetings
  • liaison interpreting
  • commercial negotiations
  • small meetings during a larger conference
  • speeches at official dinners or receptions
  • cultural events: theatre or book presentations
  • interpreting tests at the European Union: You won't pass a test if you are not able to deliver a 10 minutes consecutive speech
  • university: training for interpreters always includes consecutive interpreting
  • when the sound system is down, the team may have to work in consecutive until it's fixed. (It has happened to me several times)

According to aiic statistics, between 2 and 50% (world average 7,5 %) of all working days are consecutive working days. It varies a lot depending on your country and market.

Here is an interesting article about consecutive interpreting:

Consecutive interpretation and some conference interpreters.

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answered 08 Nov '11, 13:09

Angela's gravatar image


edited 11 Apr '12, 02:12

+1 for using stats in your answer

(08 Nov '11, 14:04) Vincent Buck

There is one more situation in which consecutive may be vital: when the simultaneous equipment breaks down. As professional conference interpreters are expected to practice both modes, consec’ and sim’, nobody will understand why you cannot go to the rostrum to provide consecutive interpreting if there is, say, a power shortage…

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answered 30 Apr '12, 15:14

Danielle's gravatar image


Consecutive interpretation is not only useful for training purposes, for me it is the very basis of interpretation, as, ideally, when working in simultaneous, you apply the same basic principle: you render sense, not just words. This is why interpreters' training traditionally starts with consecutive to give students the required tools to do just that. So my answer is yes, it is a required skill for a professional conference interpreter.

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answered 04 May '12, 06:37

Willy%20Visser's gravatar image

Willy Visser

It is important to bear in mind that simultaneous and consecutive are modes of interpretation which can occur both in a conference and a non-conference setting. A factory visit does not in my view fall into the category of conference interpreting. I would use the term contact interpreting in that case. Actually, consecutive conference interpreting consists of interpreting full speeches of up to 30 minutes of length. In these situations, the interpreter was generally expected to produce a target language speech of about 2/3 of the length of the original. Such consecutive interpreting requires a solid note-taking technique - but in my understanding is extremely rare these days, outside of training situations. Interpreters still need to be able to take notes, though, but mostly for the needs of various contact/community/liaison interpreting situations.

Consecutive interpreting is viewed by many as the basis of all interpreting but in my opinion, simultaneous and consecutive are simply two different techniques. However, consecutive is very useful for training purposes.

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answered 07 Nov '11, 16:55

Sirpa's gravatar image


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question asked: 05 Nov '11, 14:35

question was seen: 5,741 times

last updated: 04 May '12, 06:46 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

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