Conference interpreting is usually carried out by a technique called Consecutive Interpreting. In consecutive interpreting, the interpreter will stand beside the speaker. The speaker will stop periodically to allow the consecutive interpreter to translate the speech to the audience. This method will take more time because the speech is always paused to allow consecutive interpreting. Yet, this method is much more cost effective when most audiences understand a common language (e.g. English) while the speaker is the only foreign language speaker (e.g. Japanese).

Conference interpreting services can also be done in the form of simultaneous interpreting. The United Nations use this approach frequently because they find it time saving and helpful in making the voting process shorter. However, conference interpreting in this fashion will require the interpreter to be seated with a headphone in another room while doing the interpreting. Depending on the type of conference and circumstance, there can be one or up to ten interpreters providing the conference interpreting service in different languages at the same time.

The Interpreting System
Nowadays, most conference interpreting services make use of the advance telecommunication system. The Microphone Discussion System is one of them, and it is frequently used in conference interpreting. The source speech will first be delivered from the speaker’s microphone to the central system. Then the central system will distribute the original speech to the audience that does not require any conference interpreting. At the meantime, the original speech is also relayed to the simultaneous interpreters in separate rooms with their headphones (this will depend on how many languages need to be interpreted). Each interpreter will then articulate the translated speech into the microphone while the speaker is delivering the speech. Therefore, everything is happening in real time. The interpreted speech will now be transmitted back to the central system, where it will be relayed to the earpiece of any audience who is listening to it. This approach to conference interpreting originated from the Nuremberg’s war crime tribunal against the Nazis.

Conference Interpreting Process
When a translation company is appointed to provide the conference interpreting, the project manager will first select all the appropriately qualified interpreters from the linguists’ database. Then the manager will discuss with the customer on the needs of all communication equipment. The company will also liaise with the equipment technician to ensure that the sound quality is good enough for the interpreter to hear the speech clearly. A meeting with all interpreters will also be called before the conference. In this meeting, they will be given all the conference papers so that they can carry out any pre-conference research to make their interpreting more efficient.

All in all, whether to use the consecutive or simultaneous interpreting method will depend on the needs of the customer. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that conference interpreting remains a crucial tool to bridge the language barriers and facilitates effective business communications.

Steve Greenwood is passionate about languages and represents Prime Languages, a professional translation agency based in London. We specialise in Conference Interpreting Services so for an instant and competitive quote, call us today.

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