fluently/2021-06-30-fe02ecfb-dd7f-49a2-a46e-2d55137e1ae2-8adab218-04a2-4cc7-960c-a0db41c11a6e-interpreting modes.jpg


A Quick Guide to Interpreting Modes


Interpreting is an invaluable tool to navigate an increasingly global, multilingual world. From events and market research to legal and healthcare, a wide range of industries need interpreters’ help to bring down language barriers and enable communication among parties, no matter what language they speak. 


Because effective communication is a central part to any activity, there are countless contexts where there is a language gap that needs to be bridged. Interpreting is a highly versatile tool that can be carried out in different formats and through multiple channels to adapt to different situations and their specific needs. For example, a court interpreter who has to relay a judge’s comments to a defendant does not use the same interpreting method as an interpreter at a live broadcast interview. 


So, how do you know which interpreting mode is right for your organisation’s needs? Below, we list the different formats and their main characteristics, so you can choose the right one to suit your requirements. 


The five interpreting modes 


Simultaneous. This is the format where the linguist interprets what is being said in real time, which means that the interpreter is listening to the speaker, processing their speech, and speaking all at the same time. This technique requires a very high level of concentration, as the interpreter is actively rendering a phrase into a different language while comprehending another one. Simultaneous interpreting is normally seen at large events such as international conferences or live TV broadcasts, like awards shows, for example. 


Consecutive. When carrying out this type of interpretation, the linguist will wait for a natural pause in the discourse to relay what is being said in the target language. If the blocks of speech are long, the interpreter will take notes to accurately interpret what the speaker said without forgetting anything. Common settings for this type of interpreting include medical appointments, court hearings or social services appointments, where the interviewee will reply to a question in full before their answer is communicated to the interviewer in the target language. 


Asynchronous. Asynchronous interpretation is used for pre-recorded pieces. The interpreter will record the target language version of the speech, which is then added to the original piece. This mode may come in handy, for example, when a webinar or a conference in a single language needs to be repurposed as a corporate training piece for audiences with different native tongues.  


Whispered. This format, also known as chuchotage, is similar to simultaneous interpreting, as the speech is rendered into the target language as the speaker talks. However, rather than relayed to a wider audience, it is whispered to an individual in a low voice. It is used in smaller settings, where more advanced audio technology is not available, for example, in business meetings. 


Non-spoken. In this mode, interpreters will use physical languages such as British Sign Language or lipspeaking to communicate what is being said to D/deaf, deafblind, or hard-of-hearing audiences. Non-spoken interpreting can be simultaneous, consecutive, or asynchronous depending on the needs and requirements of the specific situation and its participants. It can be used in large or small events and for real-time or pre-recorded content. 


Multi-channel possibilities 


Interpreting is not only versatile in terms of how it is carried out: it is also a highly adaptable tool that can be used across different communication channels. 


For a long time, face-to-face was the most used type of interpretation, with the speaker, the interpreter, and the audience all in the same physical place at the same time. However, the Covid-19 pandemic changed this nearly overnight, and the past 18 months have seen the meteoric rise of remote interpreting channels such as telephone and videoconference. In 2020, video interpreting at THG Fluently grew 100% year-on-year, with 60% of all interpreting jobs carried out through phone services. 


While these virtual options had been available long before the pandemic started, they quickly became the norm as social distancing measures made in-person events a thing of the past. These channels have also been key in continuing to enable vital meetings such as healthcare, mental health or legal appointments at times of restricted social interaction. 


Interpreting is a highly flexible tool that can easily adapt to meet the needs of an increasingly multilingual world. Today, countless sectors and organisations rely on interpreters to keep operating smoothly. Working with top talent and industry experts will ensure your multilingual communications are successful and efficient, no matter the type of event, languages or parties involved.  


At THG Fluently, we’ve been providing professional interpreting services across multiple industries since 2003. In that time, we’ve learned what it takes to support organisations with their multilingual requirements. So, if you’d like to learn more about how we can support your project by connecting you with the right interpreter for your needs, feel free to get in touch.



Did you know we have a bookings portal for our interpreting clients? It allows you to easily book interpreters on demand, manage bookings, and much more — all in the same place. Watch a short demo of our portal and discover how it can support your business here.

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