simultaneous or consecutive interpreting—which to choose?

The day of your overseas colleagues’ visit is fast approaching, and everything is ready.

  • Their reception at the airport
  • The itinerary
  • The (already translated) documents to be presented and discussed
  • The dinner with regional managers

But that’s not everything… There’s one detail that still hasn’t been taken care of. It doesn’t make a difference if your visitors are from Germany or Brazil. The question you’re asking is:


You probably already know that they’re not the same thing. That said, you’re not sure which is the right choice for your particular situation.

The schedule of activities with your colleagues is pretty varied. So are the potential situations you may have to face.

Well then, let us steer you in the right direction! Let’s explore the key characteristics of each specialty and discuss what type of encounter they’re most appropriate for.


As its name suggests, in consecutive interpreting, the interpreter waits for the speaker to finish an idea or phrase, then translates those words into the target language.

This sort of exchange requires the speaker’s collaboration, since she or he must pause between sentences to give the interpreter time to do translate.


  • Meetings with few participants
  • Formal receptions
  • Press conferences
  • Negotiations
  • Interviews
  • Medical consultations

If the meeting lasts longer than two hours, you must hire two professionals.


Simultaneous interpreting is conducted as the conversation goes on, without interruptions. In these cases, the interpreter generally works in a soundproof booth and listens through headphones. Interpretation in the target language is spoken into a microphone, and the audience can hear it using sound receivers and headphones.


  • Conferences or presentations with large audiences
  • Political events with participants from various countries
  • Speeches

Generally, two professionals will take interpreting shifts of about 30 minutes each.

There are portable devices available that make it possible to hire simultaneous interpreters without needing a sound booth. It is an excellent resource when foreign visitors take tours of industrial plants.

Another option, usually employed in formal meetings between heads of state, is simultaneous interpreting through whisper: professionals sit beside their clients and whisper the interpreted conversation into their ears.


Now you’ve got a clearer idea of the kinds of services available to you. Something to remember is that in either case, before the day of the event, the interpreter should be equipped with information that thoroughly prepares them to do their job.

Generally speaking, your business should give the interpreter:

  • A general description of the content and issues to be presented.
  • The names of the business involved and the line of business in which they work, so that the interpreter can research the industry, corporate profiles and annual reports so that they are equipped with a glossary of specific, technical terms for the sector in question.
  • The names of the participants, so that they can research their profiles online, on LinkedIn and YouTube (if the participants are well-known, finding speeches and presentations online shouldn’t be difficult).
  • The participants’ countries of origin.


Now you’ve got a solid grasp on the characteristics of each kind of interpreting. All that’s left is to choose the best option to meet your particular needs.

Remember that consecutive interpreting is used more for meetings with few participants, while simultaneous interpreting is better for conferences or speeches with large audiences.

Compare the two and choose the one that’s best for you!

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