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Different forms of interpretation and what clients need to know


Society has generally perceived the profession of interpreting as a mere narrow language practice. What has been missing in this discourse except for those already in the industry is the knowledge that Interpreting is a practice which is broken into three different categories which are Liaison interpreting, Consecutive interpreting and Simultaneous interpreting. These different forms of interpretation all carry different delivery styles and suitable for different settings.

Liaison interpreting – Liaison interpreting is one of the fastest growing forms of interpreting. This type of interpreting is tailored to facilitate a conversation between two people, e.g. a doctor and patient or a tourist and a local government official. It is not surprising then that Liaison interpreting is also known as community interpreting or dialogue interpreting. The main characteristic of Liaison interpreting is that there is less formal speech used and shorter sentences are used than in a formal conference setting.

Simultaneous interpreting – Just as the sub-title indicates, this type of interpretation can also be described as interpretation while main speaker delivers his message. In huge settings, headphones are normally used which means the interpreter will sit in a sound booth listening to the main speaker and in turn interprets the message with the delivery going through headphones. In settings where there is one person or even two, another form of interpreting can be used and this form is called whisper. Whisper interpretation is derived from the manner of delivery in which an interpreter whispers into the ears of the person as the main speaker delivers his message. This form of interpreting can however be disruptive in huge settings; it’s therefore advisable that headphones are used for a few of the clients who need interpretation services to avoid disturbing other people in a setting.

Consecutive interpreting – Consecutive interpreting derives its title from the aspect of the interpreter waiting for the speaker to finish talking and vice-versa. This kind of interpreting is suited for small meetings or even boardroom meetings. The negative aspect of this form of interpreting is that it is time-consuming and the waiting intervals in between can really slow proceedings. Consecutive interpreting is further sub-divided into long consecutive interpreting and short consecutive interpreting. Long consecutive is the formal type and it includes prepared speeches and quite often lectures. The critical skills in this form of interpreting are note taking and analysing skills. Short consecutive interpreting is about short sentences at a time. This is less formal and doesn’t generally involve speeches. A perfect example of consecutive interpreters can be court interpreters. Important skills in this regard include a quick mind and the ability to comprehend quickly.

From the above, it’s clear to note that the field of interpreting is quite diverse and broad.

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