interpretation and translation

Interpretation is not just simply speaking in one language and then in another; professional interpreters spend a great deal of time training to build their vocabulary, memory recall, note taking, and perfecting work in the various modes of the skill. Language service providers should be extremely familiar and comfortable with the various modes of interpretation:  simultaneous, consecutive, and sight translation. These three modes are each unique and can be applied individually or collectively depending on the client needs and the setting the services are provided in. A skilled language interpreter will be able to determine what mode to work in depending on the situation and needs of the parties involved.

Consecutive Interpretation:

Consecutive is the most commonly used mode of interpretation and the one that people are most familiar with. The interpreter only begins to interpret from the source language to the target language after the speaker finishes their statement. Interpreters working in the consecutive mode must take notes so as to ensure an accurate interpretation. Most professional interpreters will have their own shorthand and style of notes that allows them to accurately track critical information such as names, dates, and times.

This mode is widely used during conference calls, business meetings, depositions, and medical appointments. It is preferable for times when each speaker must be heard clearly and information is being recorded, such as for a medical chart or court record. Interpreters in this mode must be able to control the flow of dialogue in order to render an accurate interpretation. Even the most highly skilled interpreter can lose track of what is being said after 7 – 10 words.

Simultaneous Interpretation:

With simultaneous interpretation services, the interpreter speaks almost at the same time as the individual is speaking with a short 2 – 3 word lag. This form is not as common due to the complexity and level of skill required. Interpreters working in the simultaneous mode cannot take notes and must interpret almost immediately from source language to target language.  These interpreters have minimal time to consider the information and must process the language interpretation very quickly, while still rendering an accurate interpretation.

This mode is most commonly seen at large conferences or international meetings, during witness testimony in trials, or when interpreting recorded audio/video files for an audience. The benefit of this mode is that it saves time in situations where extensive amounts of information is being stated. Additionally, because there is not much time for the interpreter to “think” about the words, it is often the most accurate mode of interpretation.

Sight Translation:

Sight translation services are used when an interpreter must read a document in a source language and verbally articulate it in the target language. This mode is the least recognized interpretation mode, as it is not commonly employed. Many times organizations have documents translated in advance, eliminating the requirement for sight translation.

However, this mode can most commonly be seen in the medical setting where an interpreter must help a patient fill out a medical questionnaire that is not in the patient’s language. Additionally, this mode is commonly employed in the real estate industry where interpreters sight translate documents for real estate transactions.

Professional interpreters can work seamlessly within all modes, although most interpreters tend to have their preference of which mode they use most commonly. A reputable agency will always review their interpreters’ abilities in each mode and be sure to evaluate client needs and match those needs with the most skilled interpreter for the assignment.

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