Guide to Interpreting Modes

How do the different interpreting styles work and when are they appropriate?

This flow chart provides an overview. Below I have compiled a more detailed list for better understanding of what the difference between the interpreting modes are and when they would be most appropriate.

Liaison Interpreting is usually the best choice when two people meet who don’t speak the same language or are unsure of specific terminology. This mode is the ideal choice for interviews, meetings and informal situations. An example scenario would be a meeting between a German service provider and their English speaking partner. The interpreter translates the German into English and the English into German, hence allowing direct communication and interaction between the two parties. Another example would be a meeting between a solicitor and their client.

Pros: Direct communication; relatively inexpensive; short set-up time

Cons: Two language maximum; can be lengthy

Consecutive Interpreting is a very good and cost efficient solution for conferences involving foreign language speakers. An example would be a medical conference in Germany with an English native expert speaker. Her talk will be held in English and afterwards the translator relates its contents to the audience in German.

Pros: Less costly than simultaneous interpreting; short set-up time

Cons: Recommended for no more than two languages; very lengthy

Simultaneous Interpreting is another very good solution for seminars, conferences and such. The interpreter finds herself in a booth with headphones and a microphone, receiving the information from the speaker and translating it at the same time.

Pros: Swift communication; direct contact between the speakers; several languages can be covered

Cons: Quality, expensive equipment required; long set-up time

In some situations, the most appropriate could be an alternative set-up with elements of the three styles mentioned above: Chuchotage (Whispering). No equipment is needed and the interpreter sits next to the person requiring their services, whispering in their ear what is being said. When the foreign language speaker wishes to say something, the interpreter switches to a Consecutive or Liaison Interpreting mode. This way, one interpreter is required per foreign language speaker.