Modes of interpreting

In the consecutive mode, the interpreter renders an interpretation after the speaker has stopped/paused speaking. In other words, the interpreter and the speaker take turns to speak. During consecutive interpreting, the interpreter usually needs to take notes to assist him/her in rendering the interpretation. Consecutive interpretation is more time consuming in that it inevitably doubles the length of the original speech, and it also tends to break up the flow of the speech. This mode of interpreting is commonly used in various settings of community interpreting.

Simultaneous interpretation can be performed with or without the use of electronic equipment.

In the electronic simultaneous mode, the interpreter sits in a soundproof booth with a clear view of the meeting room and of the speaker. The interpreter listens to the speaker through headphones and interprets the speech into a target language over a microphone as soon as s/he is able to transform the message from the SL into the TL. Listeners hear the interpreted version through headphones. Usually two interpreters are required to work in a team and to replace each other every 15 or 30 minutes. Note that in the simultaneous mode, the interpreter does not speak simultaneously as the speaker (as the word ‘simultaneous’ is supposed to suggest), but a few seconds later.

A ‘non-electronic’ mode of simultaneous interpreting is called whispered interpreting or chuchotage. It is performed with the interpreter sitting or standing next to one or two people who need interpretation and whispering the interpretation of the speech. Chuchotage is mainly used in situations where the majority of a group speaks the language of the speaker, with a limited number of people not speaking that language.

 Sight/At-sight translation, sometimes called sight interpreting, is a hybrid type of interpreting/translating whereby the interpreter reads a document written in the Source Language (SL) while translating it orally into the Target Language (TL).

Please click here for a video demonstration.


Colin, Joan, and Ruth Morris. 1996. Interpreters and the legal process. Winchester: Waterside.

Gile, Daniel. 1995. Basic Concepts and Models for Interpreter and Translator Training. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Co.


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