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A comprenhensive guide to simultaneous interpretation

Welcome to the exciting world of simultaneous interpretation!

In this guide, we'll walk you through the ins and outs of this type of interpretation, how it works, the different modes of delivery, its benefits, and where you can use it to remove language barriers and connect people in their own language.

Happy learning!

1. What is  simultaneous interpretation?

1.1 Definition 

Simultaneous interpreteation is defined by the the International Standards Organisation (ISO)  as "the process of rendering a spoken or signed message into another spoken or signed language, preserving the register and meaning of the source language, performed while a speaker is still speaking or signing".

1.2 Synonyms 

Other terms to refer to it include simultaneous interpreting, live interpreting, live interpretation, real-time interpretation, live event interpretation, conference interpretation, live translation, or conference interpreting.

1.3 Simultaneous vs consecutive interpretation

Interpretation is the art of conveying the essence of spoken or signed words from one language to another, allowing audiences to fully comprehend the message. 

Interpretation is a fast-paced and dynamic process that demands a deep understanding of the message, the ability to digest it quickly, and the skill to relay it there and then to an audience in another language, either through speech or sign language. There are two primary modes of interpretation: simultaneous interpretation and consecutive interpretation.

Simultaneous interpretation

This process is the ultimate language bridge that connects speakers and listeners in real-time, without delay or confusion. As the speaker talks, the interpreter listens attentively through headphones and seamlessly translates their words and meanings into another language, using a microphone to relay the message to the audience. This type of interpretation is irreplaceable in events where time is of the essence, such as diplomatic conferences, international conventions, courtrooms, lectures, and press conferences, where one person or a panel of speakers addresses a multilingual audience.

Consecutive interpretation

Consecutive interpretation is a more conversational style of interpretation where the speaker pauses after delivering a few sentences to allow the interpreter to convey the message to the target audience. In certain scenarios, like official statements from politicians, the speaker might do the whole speech and then the interpreter takes the stage to convey it in the target language.

In both scenarios, the interpreter usually sits or stands next to the speaker, jotting down notes as the speaker talks, to ensure a clear and accurate translation. This method is perfect for small meetings, one-on-one conversations, legal proceedings, and other intimate gatherings where a conversational approach or a full statement is preferred.

To explore the variations among the various fields of interpretation and translation, please refer to the information on different disciplines of interpretation.

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2. How does it work?

Speaker— a presenter speaks in one language. Their voice is transmitted to an interpreter, typically working from an interpretation booth located in the same room where the conference is taking place .

Interpreter(s) — The interpreter sees and hears the speaker and using a quality headset and microphone, they translate the speaker's language into another language, in real-time.

Audience — attendees and/or delegates follow interpretation in the language of their choice with traditional radio receivers. 


blog_how remote simultaneous interpretation works

3. Modes of simultaneous interpretation

There are different ways in which real-time interpretation can be delivered, typically referred to as "modes of interpretation". 

Whispered interpretation or chuchotage

Whispered interpretation, also known as chuchotage, takes place when the interpreter whispers the translation in the target language while the speaker is speaking. This mode of interpretation is suitable for  ntimate settings and small groups of up to four people, where only a few people need interpretation. The interpreter needs to be in close proximity to the listeners and must maintain a low volume to avoid disturbing others. 

In-person interpretation

IIn-person interpretation involves having an interpreter physically present at the event, working in pairs from soundproofed interpretation booths equipped with state-of-the-art microphones, headsets, and an interpreting console. oths equipped with state-of-the-art microphones, headsets, and an interpreting console. The interpreter listens to the speaker through a headset and translates the speech in real-time, which is then broadcasted to the audience using traditional radio receivers or specialised mobile apps. This mode is typically used at large conferences, multilingual seminars, or governmental meetings.

Remote simultaneous interpretation (RSI)

In 2014, Interprefy completely transformed the interpretation industry with their groundbreaking introduction of Remote Simultaneous Interpretation. This revolutionary technology enables interpreters to work from anywhere in the world with just a laptop or desktop and a stable internet connection. By logging into a cloud-based interpreting soft console, interpreters can work seamlessly in pairs, delivering interpretation for events, conferences, webinars, and business meetings, no matter where they are located. This level of flexibility and convenience has made Interprefy a game-changer in the interpretation industry.

One of the many benefits of RSI is its incredible flexibility, making it the perfect solution for events and meetings of all types, whether they are held remotely, in-person, or as a hybrid of both. Attendees can easily tune in to interpretation using their preferred device, be it a mobile phone, laptop, desktop, or traditional radio receiver. With RSI, language barriers no longer pose a challenge to effective communication in any setting and it's also a cost-efficient alternative to traditional interpretation setups at in-person conferences, congresses, and tradeshows..

Below you can see how this modality actually works:

RSI for in-person events_how it works-min


Check out this article to learn more about the different types and modes of interpretation. 



4. Benefits of simultaneous interpretation

Real-time translation has the power to break down language and cultural barriers, enabling effective communication across diverse audiences. By removing language barriers with instant live translation, it can help you to achieve: 

  • Effective communication -  real-time interpretation ensures that participants who speak different languages can understand the discussions and contribute to the meeting or event.
  • Productive meetings - conference interpreting eliminates the need for participants to pause or wait for translations, saving time and increasing productivity. 
  • Improved comprehension - it  ensures that participants fully understand the content being discussed, particularly important in high-stakes meetings related to international diplomacy, product presentations, internal company meetings or business negotiations.
  • Enhanced participation - With real-time translation all participants can participate fully in the meeting or event, regardless of their language proficiency. This helps ensure that all voices are heard and all perspectives are considered.
  • Cultural awareness- professional conference interpreters help ensure that cultural nuances and sensitivities are respected and understood. It can also help prevent misunderstandings or misinterpretations that can arise from language and cultural barriers.
This type of communication has the power to transform meetings and events into inclusive, productive, and successful experiences by breaking down language and cultural barriers and enabling effective communication across diverse audiences.


Remote Simultaneous Interpretation

5. Use cases

In-person live translation can be used in any multilingual meeting or event where the speakers and audience speak different languages and are all present in the same location. 

Some situations where in-person real-time interpretation can be used include:

- Business meetings: it can be used in situations where people from different countries are conducting negotiations or discussing important matters. 

- Conferences: in large conferences where attendees from different countries speaking different languages attend. 

- Diplomatic events: such as international summits, bilateral meetings often require live interpretation to ensure that all participants can understand each other. 

- Media events: such as press conferences where journalists from different countries may ask questions in different languages.

- Legal proceedings: such as international arbitration hearings or trials where witnesses or participants speak different languages. 

- Life Sciences conferences: in medical conferences or training sessions, it is used to ensure that participants can understand the latest research and developments in their field, regardless of their language 

- Corporate events: such as product launches, training sessions, town halls or all hands at companies with an international workforce. 

When done remotely, the use cases are the same, but additionally, the technology allows interpretation to be transmitted to all participants, regardless of their location. In that sense, the remote version removes language barriers in situations where the in-person modality does not reach, such as virtual and hybrid meetings and events. You can read more about the use cases for RSI here

remote-interpreter 2

6. Equipment 

The equipment needed will depend on the mode of interpretation you go for. Whispered interpretation does not call for anything special but in-person interpretation for bigger meetings and conferences, and remote assignments, do.

Equipment needs for in-person assignments

Interpreters at in-person assignments typically work from soundproofed interpretation booths with hard consoles. The audience then listens to their interpretation using radio or infra-red receivers.

interpreter booth-min

Image: Traditional interpreter hard console inside an interpreting booth.


Equipment needs for remote assignments

If you choose to go remote, interpreters won't need to be at the venue and they can provide interpretation from anywhere in the world using a soft-console accessible via a desktop or laptop.

virtual interpreter booth-min (1)Image: interpreter working from a virtual booth at an interpreting hub at Simul in Japan. 

6. How much does it cost?

The cost will also vary depending on the mode of interpretation you choose. When compared to RSI, in-person interpretation is not as cost-effective, mainly due to the equipment and interpreters travel expenses, as explained below. 

Equipment cost

Interpreters at in-person assignments work in pairs from soundproofed interpretation booths. For this, you will need to source the audiovisual provider who can provide you with the interpreting booths, as well as transport and installation of the booths at the venue. Keep in mind the space available at the venue to place the booths and the language requirements when booking the booths, as more languages mean more booths. 

interpreter booth (2)Image: interpreter booth for in-person interpretation and laptop for remote interpretation


Interpreter fees

When it comes to booking conference interpreters, it's important to remember that they always work in pairs. The demands of real-time interpretation are significant, which is why interpreters work with a partner in a soundproof booth, taking turns to ensure accuracy and avoid mental fatigue.

Depending on the interpreter or language service providers you work with, interpreter fees may vary.  The availability of the required language combinations and level of their subject expertise may also be factors affecting fees. Additionally, you need to factor travel expenses and accommodation, in case you can't find interpreters with your language combinations in the city where your event is taking place, if you opt for the in-person interpreting modality. 

But essentially, interpreter fees are always time-based and charged by the hour.

Audiovisual technical support

To ensure consistent quality and reliability of the booths connections and radio receivers for the audience, you need to find audiovisual technical support.  They will be the people on-site to contact if there are any problems accessing or providing the interpretation.



6. Key factors to successful events with simultaneous interpretation

When it comes to hosting multilingual conferences and event, there are a few common rookie mistakes, that can stand in the way of your success.

Making your multilingual event a seamless experience for everyone can be a complex objective that requires more than just having the content in multiple languages. Anticipation and teamwork are key to avoiding common pitfalls. Here are some pro tips to help you make your multilingual events a success: 

Choose a resilient multilingual event technology partner

Whether you choose in-person, remote, or a mixture of both modes of interpretation, choosing the right technology partner is a key part of the success of  your event.

For small and medium-sized businesses, many of the current cloud-based conferencing/meeting tools with embedded interpretation capabilities will suffice; they’re easy to use and quick to deploy. But hosting large-scale events for thousands of people across several regions sets the bar higher. 

An RSI partner like Interprefy can provide an ISO 27001-compliant platform with redundant servers across the globe, offers proven experience in delivering interpretation in a myriad of setups, integrates with your event tech stack and provides hands-on support at any point. Additionally, Interprefy can point you in the direction of an experienced audiovisual provider with knowledge of RSI, thanks to our worldwide network of AV partners. 

Find the right language talent

Partnering with Interprefy means having access to the best language experts in the industry. We collaborate with top language service providers (LSP's) to match your specific language needs and subject requirements with experienced conference interpreters. Even for the rarest languages and tight timelines, we're equipped to source the right talent for your event. 

Prepare both interpreters and speakers

The behavior of a speaker has a huge impact on the working conditions and ultimately on the performance of interpreters. Making sure speakers use quality microphones, have no background noise and speak paced and clearly is key.

Investing in the preparation of professional conference interpreters is key to ensuring exceptional quality too. Provide them with  presentations and documentation in advance so they can study them. Ask them to arrive early to the event to perform a sound-check and ensure everything is set up for success. By prioritising interpreter preparation, you can expect a flawless interpretation experience and some multilingual event technology partners, like Interprefy, have project management and remote support teams who take care of this for you. 

Buyer's Guide to Remote Interpreting


Are you ready to connect your audience in their own language?

Interprefy has been delivering RSI in tens of thousands of multilingual events for organisations of all shapes and sizes. If you have an upcoming event and would like to explore how RSI can help you connect your audience in their own language, please book a consultative 15-minute introduction call with us.