The Difference between Simultaneous and Consecutive Interpretation

In the spirit of good communication, lets make a few things clear from the beginning. First, two definitions…

Simultaneous Interpretation – a method of communicating a message from one language to another as quickly as possible. Using this method, an interpreter listens to a speaker, translates in her head, and then speaks the message in the target language before the speaker finishes. Both the original speaker and the interpreter speak at the same time. This method is most commonly used in the UN General Assembly. It is also common when translating a message into sign language.

Consecutive Interpretation – a method of communicating a message from one language to another in segments. Using this method, a speaker and interpreter coordinate and work more closely together. The original speaker often pauses between sentences or thoughts and allows time for the interpreter to deliver his message little by little.

According to, there are several advantages to either method…

When using simultaneous interpretation, there are no interruptions, causing a smooth, uninterrupted interpretation. This method is also the most efficient use of time--the meeting schedule is not affected since no additional time is required for the interpretation. Simultaneous interpretation is also ideal in large meetings when only a small number of attendees do not speak English--the interpretation is heard only by those who choose to listen, typically through a headset. It is also essential when multiple languages will be spoken at the same meeting. A drawback is that this service is a bit more expensive because of the skill, effort, and preparation involved, as well as certain pieces of audio equipment.  Simultaneous interpretation might also require more than one interpreter for prolonged meetings, since the interpreter never gets a break during the interpretation process.

When hiring an interpreter for consecutive interpretation, there are also several advantages.  First, it is more cost-effective as fewer interpreters and no equipment or technical personnel are required. Because there are pauses between sentences and ideas, participants are allowed time to absorb ideas and listen to the proceedings in both languages if they desire. In sensitive business and legal negotiations, participants have a chance to reflect on what is being said and then react appropriately.

Language is a funny thing. But bad communication is no joke. As author and traveler Bill Bryson so aptly put it in his book Mother Tongue

“To be fair, English is full of booby traps for the unwary foreigner. Any language where the unassuming word fly signifies an annoying insect, a means of travel, and a critical part of a gentleman’s apparel, is clearly asking to be mangled.”

So here’s the question: What are your needs? At CORE Languages, our goal is clear, concise, and accurate communication. Whichever form that may take, we’re prepared to serve you.


Jan 1, 2021, 19:24 PM by CORE Team
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