Simultaneous interpreting

In simultaneous interpreting, speech is transmitted through a headset to an interpreter who almost simultaneously renders the message into a microphone. The interpreter is usually one or two sentences behind the speaker. For simultaneous interpreting, interpreters work in soundproof booths and use special simultaneous interpretation equipment. They convey the message of whoever is speaking by using a console equipped with a microphone. Attendees at the event can select the relevant channel to hear the interpreted speech in the language of their choice.

Simultaneous interpreting is exceptionally demanding work that requires a quick reaction, stamina, an ability to cope with stress and fatigue, a good memory and the necessary skills to simultaneously process a speaker’s language while rendering it into the correct target language. Because it is so demanding, simultaneous interpreting requires at least two interpreters who take turns of about 20 to 30 minutes to interpret.

Simultaneous interpreting is practiced at multilingual events, conferences and seminars that involve a large number of speakers and participants. This particular mode of interpreting saves time as it does not require the speaker to pause. Delegates who do not understand the speech in the original language use headsets to listen to its simultaneous interpretation. The same speech can be simultaneously interpreted into a multitude of languages at the same time.

Whispering and simultaneous interpreting outside the booth with a tour-guide system are also considered to be different forms of simultaneous interpreting. Thus, the number of interpreters required and duration of time spent interpreting is the same as booth-based simultaneous interpreting. Simultaneous interpreting was patented in 1926, but was not employed on a large scale until just after World War II, when it was used at the Nuremberg Trials so that a multilingual gathering of international experts could administer justice to Nazi war criminals.

For more information on interpretation equipment please see here.

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