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I have often been asked the question, “I thought that language interpretation was a process where the presenter would speak a couple of sentences, and then the interpreter would repeat them in a different language, and they would take turns communicating the message? If so, what does your interpretation equipment do? The answer to this question is found in the explanation between “consecutive interpretation” and “simultaneous interpretation.” The truly inquisitive (and glutens for punishment ) will follow that initial question with “are there different types of language interpretation?” I think the easiest way to explain this is to define them one at a time:

  • Consecutive Interpretation – is the process where a consecutive interpreter will stand beside the presenter, listens to a portion of the speech (typically a paragraph or a completed thought) while taking notes, then repeat that portion of the speech back to the audience in another language. Then the floor would be turned back over to the presenter to continue their speech. The presenter and interpreter take turns speaking until the message is communicated completely in both languages.
    • Equipment required: None – but depending on the size of the audience, a standard sound system is supplied with microphones for both the presenter and interpreter.
    • Ideal for: bidirectional settings only (two languages)
    • Upside: inexpensive solution
    • Downside: makes the proceedings take twice as long because just about every word is being repeated. Primarily limited to bilingual settings and individual speeches.


  • Simultaneous Interpretation – is the process where a simultaneous interpreter will use professional language interpretation equipment to listen to a presenter in their headphone, and with only momentary time delay, repeat the message in another language for distribution to the audience. The audio from the microphone is transmitted wirelessly to receivers and earphones worn by participants.
    • Equipment required: professional language interpretation equipment and sound proof interpretation booths
    • Ideal for: both bilingual and multilingual settings as well as longer meetings.
    • Upside: proceedings do not take longer than normal. Not limited to bilingual settings and individual speeches. Some meeting use up to 32 languages!
    • Downside: can be an expensive solution, depending on your requirements.


  • Whisper Interpretation – is simultaneous interpretation that is performed in a meeting space that will not accommodate an interpreter booth. Because the sound proof properties of the booth are not present, the interpreter must speak in a low voice or “whisper” in order to not disturb the meeting proceedings. Whisper interpretation can be performed with or without portable interpretation equipment:
    • Without equipment: the interpreter sits behind the delegate(s) requiring the interpretation and repeats the presentation in the required language simultaneously at a whisper. This is usually a worst case scenario where the equipment is not available and is only possible for short periods of time. Without the equipment, the whispering can be distracting to the proceedings (especially in multilingual scenarios) and requires the interpreter to lean forward in an uncomfortable position.
    • With equipment: the interpreter can comfortably sit back away from the delegates with a Portable FM transmitter and microphone and provide the delegates requiring the interpretation with a Portable FM receiver and headphone to listen in their own language. They still speak softly into their microphones in order to reduce the overall noise level in the room and cause the least amount of distraction. In ideal scenarios, the interpreter is provided with a wireless sound feed of the presentation, which greatly enhances their ability to perform their job ( again, the better quality of sound that you provide to an interpreter, the better quality interpretation you will receive!)


  • Remote Interpretation – is also simultaneous interpretation that is performed in a meeting space that will not accommodate an interpreter booth. There are several scenarios for remote interpretation including (but not limited to):
    • The interpreter booths are located in an adjacent room with video and audio fed from the meeting room to the remoted interpreter booths. This method should only be used if absolutely required, as you will always benefit from having the interpreters in the same room as the proceedings.
    • The interpreters are off-site in another building, or another city, and are connected via customized teleconference equipment to the proceedings. Again this scenario is not ideal and should only be used if absolutely required.
    • The interpreter booths are in the local meeting room, and they are providing interpretation for both the local site and several remote sites via teleconferencing equipment.
    • In an international facility outfitted with language interpretation equipment, the conference may require more languages than the main conference room’s existing interpretation booths can handle. In this case the booths from adjacent conference rooms are linked into the interpretation system, and video from the main conference room is fed to the remoted booths. For example, the main conference room has six interpretation booths, but the conference requires ten languages. In this scenario, four booths from the adjacent conference room would be assigned to be controlled by the system in the main conference room, giving them the possible capability of ten languages.

Confused yet??? That ought to teach you a lesson about asking too many questions. Just kidding, we love the challenge, so keep them coming! Here’s a link to a previous post that explains more about language interpretation. Click here.

At Listen Technologies, language interpretation is one of five solution categories that we focus on.

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