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What is a conference interpreter?

A conference interpreter is a professional language and communication expert who, at multilingual meetings, conveys the meaning of a speaker's message orally and in another language to listeners who would not otherwise understand.

The work of a conference interpreter is quite distinct from written translation and requires different training and qualifications.

Conference interpreters usually work in a team put together for a specific conference by a consultant interpreter who will take into account the language needs and other requirements of the event.

Conference interpreters use different types of interpretation that depend on the type of conference and the number of participants. You can choose among:

Simultaneous interpretation
Consecutive interpretation
Chuchotage or 'whispered' interpretation

Simultaneous interpretation – is the most frequent type of interpretation used.
The spoken word is translated via a headset and microphone by the interpreter as it is spoken - i.e. simultaneously - into another language. Interpreters hand over every 20 to 30 minutes. Simultaneous interpretation is real-time translation.

Consecutive interpretation – ideally suited for meetings of small groups where only two, or at most three, languages are spoken.
The interpreters take notes while speakers give the presentation and interpret subsequently what was said into the target language. It can also be provided after each section of a speech; depending on the speaker's rhythm.

Chuchotage or "whispered" interpretation - The interpreter works for at most two listeners and "whispers into their ears" whilst the speaker talks. Chuchotage is extremely tiring for both the interpreter and the listener and should only be used in specific situations. In some cases it may be advisable to use a mobile interpretation unit, through which interpretation can be provided to a theoretically unlimited number of listeners, when, for example, visiting a museum, a production plant or a building site.

For making things easier for you and us, we have listed some items to be taken into account for your inquiry:


a)     Date and place of the event

b)     Nature and subject of the event

e)     Languages required

c)     Program

d)     Number of speaker/ participants

b)     Type of interpretation


f)      if simultaneous:

         Is technical equipment available? 

If not, how many delegates require interpretation? 

How many microphones are required?

Panel:               Speaker:            for delegates:

(table microphones, portable microphones, stationary microphones)

  Preparation of the interpretation:

a) Inform participants that and which languages will be interpreted. 

b) Provide interpreters with as much information (papers of speakers) and documentation possible (if possible in the target and the original language), on the background and on the program of the event.

c) Inform all speakers/discussion partners that interpretation will be provided.

Speaker should

- provide the interpreters with sketches, manuscripts, etc. of their papers as early as possible

      (minimum 14 days  prior to the event), including drafts, preliminary versions, technical literature, etc.);

- in case of free speech, provide slides, overheads, keynotes, technical literature, official texts or other

   publications specific to the item discussed;

- do not change language during the speech, neither walk around if microphone is stationary;

- talk moderately (not too fast, but not too slow either) and articulate (specially if reading a written text) 

d) For consecutive and liaison interpreting (negotiations) calculate time of interpretation to be as long as time of speaking, as necessary, provide microphone for interpreter.

e) For simultaneous interpretation, insist on use of microphones. The interpreters’ booths are sound-proof; the interpreters wear headphones and are not able to hear delegates not using a microphone!

 f) Interpreters are always pleased at being provided with beverages in their booths (water, fruit juice, tea, coffee) 

 g) Technical equipment:

If not available, ask interpreters - they cooperate with equipment providers and are ideally suited to consult you. As a rule, the booths should have the following dimensions: approx. 2 x 2,50m x 1,50m.

Location of the booths: Place booths in such a way that interpreters have a good view of the speaker and all information to be interpreted. As a rule, the booths are placed at the rear wall of the room, in the back of the audience and with a view to the speakers. If films, slides or transparencies are to be shown and require interpretation, please ensure that the screen is clearly visible from the booths and that the interpreters have received a script or a copy of the texts to be projected in advance