Simultaneous Interpreting

This is the most common type of interpreting as it is used daily in EU institutions, at the UN and in other international organizations or in the private market. The interpreters sit in a «booth» and listen to speeches in one language through a pair of headphones. They interpret the speech by speaking into a microphone which transmits their voice to the headphones worn by the listeners in the audience.

Simultaneous interpretation requires a great deal of concentration by the interpreter, so during multi-language conferences, two interpreters work per «booth» or per target language, in a half-hour-on, half-hour-off rhythm. Therefore, if the conference languages are e.g. German, English and French, there will generally be six interpreters. Working hours: a maximum of 7 hours with a lunch break of at least one full hour.

Technical equipment and professional sound engineers are as important for the success of the conference as the interpreters themselves. Booths, microphones, headsets and loudspeakers must work properly, particularly as interpreters are not trained to cope with technical problems if these should arise during a meeting. In Switzerland, there are several companies specialising in what is known as conference technology; over the years, interpreters and technicians have come to know and often recommend each other.

Simultaneous interpreting can also be provided in "chuchotage" mode for 1 to a maximum of 3 people, grouped around the interpreter, since it is performed without a microphone or headphones. Another option is to work with the "bidule" system (a kind of attaché case containing a microphone and 20 headphones sent directly to the meeting organiser), in which case no booth or technician is required. The bidule system means no booths or technicians are necessary. The interpreters sit near the speaker and whisper simultaneously into a microphone which transmits their voices to the headphone worn by the listeners. This interpretation system may be used with small groups and for short meetings of a maximum of 3 hours; in this mode of interpreting, we too always work in a team of two.

If the conference venue does not have a built-in installation, the organiser can hire "mobile" booths from experienced conference technicians, who will assemble and dismantle them at the required location.  This makes it possible to hold conferences (almost) anywhere with interpreters and technicians.