Simultaneous vs Consecutive Interpreting

Just like an Umbrella offers a person shelter from the rain, interpreting offers shelter to a person of limited English who doesn’t have the words to express themselves in another language. Let’s discuss two types of interpreting, simultaneous and consecutive.

Simultaneous Interpreting

Simul in Latin means: “At the same time”, so simultaneous interpreting means you are literally translating from one language to another at the same time that you are hearing each party to the conversation. Now that is talent! This can be an effective way for both parties to know they are being heard 100% without missing any information.

Consecutive Interpreting

Consecut in Latin means: “followed closely”, so consecutive interpreting refers to when a person with, say, limited English proficiency speaks and there is a pause, not for dramatic effect, but to allow for interpretation. The interpreter is “following closely” in thought so as to convert what the person just said in Spanish to the English Speaker, and vice versa. During the entire interchange of thought fragments, the interpreter functions as the link between the two individuals or groups.

A beautiful privilege, and a great responsibility

With both simultaneous and consecutive interpreting, the interpreter must listen carefully to all the details and context provided to convey exactly what is being said without adding or omitting anything. The interpreter becomes the voice for both individuals, a beautiful privilege, yet a weighty responsibility.

Last updated June 18, 2019