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  • June 2, 2017

Simultaneous Interpretation — Methods and Event Types

Simultaneous interpretation involves translating speech with as little delay as possible. There are several methods to this, each suited to a set of circumstances. It is important to understand which is most appropriate to a given event, in order to control costs and accommodate the audience’s needs.


Equipment: none
Interpreters: one
Typical setting: informal events, small business meetings
Audience: up to 20 people with just a handful requiring interpretation

Whispering is interpretation is its most vanilla form: the interpreter sits among people in the audience requiring interpretation, whispering under the voice of the speaker so that only an intended few people can hear him. Because it does not require any equipment and only minimal setup, it’s relatively inexpensive and simple to execute. However, it becomes impractical with larger groups or noisy events.


Equipment: table, microphone, earphone
Interpreters: one or two
Typical setting: small or mid-sized conferences, internal meetings, informal events
Audience: 15~30 people

As the name suggests, table interpretation involves the interpreter(s) seated at a table. This is useful for a semi-formal event, as the audience can usually see the interpreter (who effectively becomes part of the presentation). It requires equipment and so is more expensive than whispering, but is an appropriate solution for events manageable by a single interpreter who does not require isolation or continuous assistance from another interpreter.


Equipment: soundproof booth, microphones, earphones, monitor (optional)
Interpreters: at least two
Typical setting: large conferences, forums, formal events
Audience: 20+ people

Booth interpretation involves (usually) two interpreters in a soundproof booth with audio equipment and sometimes a monitor. Any event involving interpretation into more than one language would probably require a booth per language. Interpreters work in pair, coordinating speech in a way that keeps pace better than other methods. A must-have for conferences where appearances and delivery are important and for larger, more dynamic events.

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