Direct navigation

What is interpreting?


How can you recognise a qualified interpreter?
The "interpreter" job title is not protected, therefore in principle anyone could call themselves an interpreter. A degree in the field of interpreting (leading to qualification as a “Diplom-Dolmetscher” in Germany, for instance) is representative of sound training. Membership of the worldwide association for conference interpreters aiic offers additional guarantees in terms of quality. Entrance requirements for admission to the association include several years of work experience, as well as a competent and professional working method which has to be confirmed by active members.

What is whispering equipment?
Whispering or personal guide equipment consists of a microphone with a transmitter and receivers with headphones. You may already have seen such equipment during monolingual factory or museum tours. The speaker holds a microphone in his/her hand, and the listeners can move around freely with the headphones on their heads.

Is "whispering equipment" suitable as a substitute for a booth?
There are interpreting situations in which using whispering equipment is appropriate, such as guided tours. However, it certainly does not offer a substitute for a soundproof interpreting booth. With this method the interpreter hears any sound in the room, which means that even the smallest cough or rustling of paper could lead to him misunderstanding the speaker and leave him unable to properly translate the sense. Moreover, the sound of the interpreter’s voice is not can be heard in the room, which can be irritating for the speaker and listeners alike.

How long can a simultaneous interpreter work without a break?
As a general rule of thumb, interpreters work for around 30 minutes at a time. After this they hand over to a colleague and have time to recover themselves. Simultaneous interpreting requires very high concentration levels and is therefore exhausting. In order to comprehend how strenuous simultaneous interpreting is, why not try "shadowing" for yourself. Put on a chat show and try to repeat everything in the same language with just a few seconds time delay. If you are not practised in this, you will only manage a few minutes. And you won’t have even started to think simultaneously about translating what is being said into another language!

Why do simultaneous interpreters always work at least in pairs?
After around 30 minutes of simultaneous interpreting the interpreter needs a break and hands over to a colleague. A working day with a maximum of 6 hours pure interpreting time can be managed in a pair. With a longer working day, and/or very technical subject matters, a team of three interpreters is necessary.

How do interpreters prepare for a conference?

Professional interpreters prepare themselves thoroughly for every conference. The preparation includes reading documents sent by the client and creating glossaries for the subject area, as well as reading background material. If conference organisers can make the presentations available to the interpreters in advance, these will be carefully worked through taking possible difficulties with language or content into consideration.

How do interpreters manage to know the correct vocabulary, even at very technical conferences?
Through very thorough preparation. Of course, interpreters who often work at technical conferences also have a good base of technical vocabulary. But still, every conference and every company has a difference focus which the interpreters have to prepare themselves for. Working through conference documentation and careful research help with creating a technical glossary.

What is the difference between interpreting and translating?
Interpreting is the oral translation of a spoken text from a source language into a target language. Translating is the written translation of a written text from a source language into a target language.

What does it cost to hire an interpreter?
An interpreter’s fee is calculated on a daily rate, which includes the preparation and follow-up of a job. In addition to the daily fee, depending on the venue, journey costs and other expenses can be added. If a whole team is booked, in most cases the organising agency will also include an administration charge.

Can videos be interpreted?
Basically yes. However, either the script or the video itself should be made available to the interpreter before the event. Film commentaries are often spoken quickly and in comparison with natural spoken language are very concise, which makes interpreting more difficult.

What are A, B and C languages?

A-language indicates the mother tongue, whilst B-language indicates a foreign language of which the interpreter has a near-native command and into which he or she also interprets. The C-language is a foreign language that the interpreter understands excellently, but doesn’t use actively. This means that they only interpret out of this language into their mother tongue and not the other way round.

What is meant by conference interpreter?

A conference interpreter has a command of all interpreting techniques (simultaneous interpreting, consecutive interpreting, liaison interpreting, whispered interpreting), and can support clients and interpreters as a consultant interpreter.

What is simultaneous interpreting?

The interpreter translates what is said into another language with the help of simultaneous interpreting equipment, whilst the speaker is speaking. In general, two or three conference interpreters per language work together in an interpreting booth and alternate every half an hour.
Simultaneous interpreting equipment consists of a soundproof booth for two or three interpreters, equipped with an interpreting desk with a microphone and headphones for each interpreter. If someone speaks (into the microphone!) in the conference room, the sound is transmitted to the interpreter’s headphones via an infrared transmitter or via a radio transmitter. The interpretation follows almost simultaneously via the microphone on the interpreting desk in the booth, and is passed on to the headphones or receivers of the listeners in the room. In order to guarantee the smooth functioning of the interpreting equipment, it is looked after by a specialised technician.

What is consecutive interpreting?
The interpreter renders what is said in another language after the speaker has finished making his or her remarks. As a general rule no interpreting equipment is used in these situations. This technique is particularly suitable for shorter events at which interpreting is only required into one language, for example at press conferences or company meetings. Arbitration proceedings and depositions, amongst other things, are usually interpreted consecutively.

What is liaison interpreting?
The interpreter renders what is said in both directions between two or more people in a conversation. He or she interprets individual sentences or short passages of speech. This kind of interpreting is most commonly used at business meetings, factory tours or in court.

What is whispered interpreting?
There are two different sub-types of whispered interpreting. If there is a maximum of two listeners, the interpreter will sit behind them simultaneously interpreting what is said in a quiet voice. For tours, the interpreter uses so-called "whispering equipment" (personal guide equipment) which consists of a microphone and headphones. At least two interpreters are needed for this variety of interpreting. Whispered interpreting is only suitable for very small events with a time limit or for negotiations.