Consecutive vs. Simultaneous Interpretation

The two major forms of interpretation are consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation.

Simultaneous Interpretation

Consecutive interpretation is a method in which the interpreter waits for the speaker to finish their communication before presenting it into the target language. The interpretation is portioned into segments, the length of which is dependent on the preference of the client. Sometimes the interpretation is broken down by sentence or by idea, and other times the entirety of a speech or message is interpreted following the completion of the presentation. Universally speaking, the more formal the setting, the lengthier the segments will be.

Consecutive interpretation can be used in a number of settings, usually of a smaller size. Interviews are one setting where it is commonly used because it allows the speaker to finish their thoughts and answer questions in full before the interpreter delivers the message into the target language. Speeches are another time where consecutive interpretation is used. The interpreter sits and listens to the speech while taking notes. Usually the speaker is provided with a script of the speech as well, and is able to interpret the entirety of it with the aid of the notes and script. Other settings where it is used are meetings and press conferences. However, in the modern world consecutive interpretation has largely been replaced by simultaneous interpretation.

Simultaneous interpretation is the method of interpretation where the message is communicated into the target language as quickly as possible, usually with only a few seconds of lag time. The interpreter listens to the speaker, comprehends the message in their head, and interprets the message into the target language while continuing to listen to the speaker. It is a very difficult skill to master. Simultaneous interpreters customarily wear headphones and sit in a sound-proof booth because it enhances their ability to focus. They also work in teams of two. The target audience is provided with headsets and transmitters in order to listen to the interpretation. The use of this audio equipment allows the audience to be of larger size.

This method is chiefly used for conferences and meetings where a great deal of information must be conveyed in a timely matter. The UN General Assembly is a famous setting that uses simultaneous interpretation. It is also the preferred form of interpretation for sign language.

Which method of interpretation do you prefer? What tips do you have that will help one with interpreting, both consecutively and simultaneously?



Nisar, the dynamic force behind Translation Excellence, stands tall as its founder and CEO. This isn’t just any company—it’s a global heavyweight in boutique language services. Hailing from the vibrant city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nisar brought his passion and expertise to the U.S. shores in 2001. In the realm of languages, he’s a titan. With 19 years under his belt, he’s worn hats from a linguist and instructor to a cultural bridge-builder and curriculum craftsman.

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