7 Types of Interpreting Services (and When to Use Them)

types of interpreting services
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Are you looking for an interpreter?  Different types of interpreting services are available to suit various business needs. If you’re not sure what type you’ll need, we’ve got you covered. Here are seven types of interpreting services and a rundown of when to use each type:

Types of Interpreting Services: Simultaneous Interpreting

In simultaneous interpreting, the interpreter interprets speech as it’s spoken.  Despite the name, simultaneous interpreting isn’t actually simultaneous. The interpreter still has to hear what the speaker says to be able to interpret it, so they’re always a sentence or two behind.

That said, simultaneous interpreting is still an impressive feat. To keep up with the speaker, the interpreter has to think on their feet, mentally translating quickly and accurately without even a moment to stop and think.

Simultaneous interpreting generally requires specialised equipment, like headsets, to help the audience follow along in their own language.

When to use it:

Simultaneous interpreting saves time and creates a more natural experience for listeners. This type of interpreting is best suited for large events, like conferences, trade shows, and large meetings with many speakers. In fact, another name for simultaneous interpreting is “conference interpreting.” It’s also the method of choice for the United Nations.

Types of Interpreting Services: Consecutive Interpreting or Face-to-Face Interpreting

In consecutive interpreting, also known as face-to-face, liason, or ad-hoc interpreting,  the speaker stops speaking every few minutes to give the interpreter a chance to interpret what’s been said.

When to use it: 

Simultaneous interpreting saves time, but it’s a bit like walking and chewing gum at the same time. Consecutive interpreting is easier on the interpreter since they aren’t trying to listen and interpret at the same time. However, since the speakers have to stop and wait for the interpreter, it also takes longer. As a result, consecutive interpreting is suitable for smaller business events, including

  • Meetings and training workshops (depending on size)
  • Negotiations
  • Seminars
  • HR meetings

This is also the type of interpreting you’re most likely to see in courtrooms.

Consecutive interpreting is also used in more informal settings, such as interviews and doctor’s visits.

Types of Interpreting Services: Escort/Travel Interpreting

Escort interpreting is when a client is assigned an interpreter to accompany them for the duration of a trip, usually a business trip. The interpreter assists not only in business meetings, but may also help with more mundane logistical tasks like ordering meals and arranging transportation.

When to use it

Escort interpreting is ideal for busy executives on business trips abroad.

Types of Interpreting Services: Whisper Interpreting

In essence, “whisper interpreting” is simultaneous interpreting without the headsets or other equipment.  Instead, the interpreter interprets quietly, often whispering, so that the clients can understand what’s being said.

When to use it 

Since the interpreter is whispering or speaking quietly, whisper interpreting is only suitable for small groups.

Types of Interpreting Services: Over-the-Phone Interpreting (Scheduled and On-Demand)

In telephonic or over-the-phone interpreting, the interpreter interprets via a phone call.  These phone calls may be scheduled ahead of time, or they may be available on demand.

Telephonic interpreting can be done simultaneously or consecutively. However, consecutive over-the-phone interpreting is both more accurate and easier to understand than simultaneous over-the-phone interpreting.  So, it’s usually a better choice.

When to use it

Obviously, over-the-phone interpreting is the best choice for interpreting phone calls between two parties that don’t speak the same language. Typical situations include business calls and customers calling in for customer service.

However, over-the-phone interpreting is also handy for situations where it is too difficult or not cost-effective to find an in-person interpreter. For example, when patients arrive in an emergency department, over-the-phone interpreting is sometimes the best way to find an interpreter that speaks the right language quickly.

That said, over-the-phone interpreting does have disadvantages. For example, since the interpreter is not physically present, they miss out on nonverbal communication cues. As a result, over the phone interpreting can be less accurate than in-person interpreting.

Types of Interpreting: Video Remote Interpreting

Video remote interpreting is similar to telephonic interpreting, except that it takes place over a video conference instead of over the phone.

When to use it

The main advantage of remote video interpreting over telephonic interpreting is that the interpreter can both see and hear their subject, resulting in improved accuracy.

So, it’s suitable for any situation in which you would use telephonic interpreting, provided the necessary equipment is on hand for both the client and the interpreter.

Types of Interpreting Services: Sign Language Interpreting

Sign language interpreting is used to make events and services accessible to Deaf and hard-of-hearing people who prefer to communicate through sign language.

When to use it:

Any time you need to make your event accessible to sign language users, you should use a sign language interpreter. Subtitles and captions are more difficult for people who sign as their primary language to process.  However, keep in mind that while it’s essential to offer sign language services, they may not be sufficient to reach all deaf and hard-of-hearing members of your audience. People who became deaf or hard-of-hearing later in life may prefer captions or subtitles

Not everyone who is bilingual has what it takes to be an interpreter. Bilingual individuals may be able to assist in casual situations. However, if accuracy is important, use a qualified professional interpreter. Some fields, including medical and legal, and more specialised and it’s crucial that your interpreter has the appropriate training and experience.

Need assistance finding the right interpreters for the job?  We’re happy to help- contact us today!

Photo Credit: World Trade Organization from Switzerland [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons