FAQs

What you always wanted to know about simultaneous interpretation

Simultaneous interpreting: How does it work?

During simultaneous interpreting the spoken words are rendered into another language immediately, i. e. simultaneously. Interpreters work from mobile or permanently installed booths. They hear the speech via headsets and interpret it while at the same time listening to the continuation of the speech. They continuously store the additional information in their memory, recall it and translate it. While doing this they check their delivery for plausibility and accuracy.

After 20 to 30 minutes the level of concentration necessary for simultaneous interpretation is no longer guaranteed. Therefore interpreters regularly take turns, working in teams of two or three. Interpreting is extraordinarily demanding, it requires outstanding mastery of languages and fields of knowledge, as well as a very high resilience, ability to concentrate and to resist mental stress.

Interpreters usually interpret into their native language.

Are there other modes of interpreting?

Consecutive interpreting is less commonly applied than simultaneous. It is performed after the original speech is completed. This means that a speech or address is interpreted wholly or by paragraphs, based on the notes taken by the interpreter while it was delivered. This mode of interpreting takes more time than simultaneous.

Beyond profound knowledge of languages and of the subject, maximum concentration, an unusually reliable memory and an accurate note-taking technique are of paramount importance for this mode of interpreting.

This mode is ideal for formal and diplomatic events.

Liaison Interpreting, on the other hand, is ideal for short, dynamic conversations within a small bilingual group. The interpreter will interpret a few sentences at a time.

Why does one generally need (at least) two interpreters?

Interpreting is team-work. It requires utmost concentration. To maintain the highest possible level of quality, interpreters will take turns, each generally working for thirty minutes. Whenever the subject is highly complex and demanding, they may switch sooner. During their ‘breaks’ interpreters help each other by writing down figures and key words for the active booth-mate.

Nowadays everybody speaks English – so why do we need interpreters?

In our native languages we are able to express spontaneously what comes to our mind – in a foreign language we are able to say what our vocabulary will allow. Quite obviously we speak more convincingly and more accurately in our mother tongue. Correct wording, register and pronunciation require less effort. We are ’at home’ in it and deliver the core message accurately. 

Participants demonstrably benefit more from a conference when offered the possibility to follow the presentations in their own mother tongues, even if they understand the language of the speaker (mostly English) reasonably well and are familiar with the subject.

Also, companies active on a world wide scale are noticeably more competitive when investing in multilingual communication – this includes top-notch interpreting and translating services. This is confirmed by the conclusions of the ‘Elan Study’, carried out by the EU and dealing with the consequences on the economy of the EU when there is a lack of knowledge of foreign languages.  

Why do we need a booth – won’t whispered interpretation do?

Interpreters need a sound-proofed environment to work in so they can fully concentrate on the presentations and their interpretation. When interpreters whisper to one or two delegates the content of a speech, they may get distracted by the ambient noises in the room because the acoustics are rarely satisfactory in function rooms. Hence words may get lost and possibly important information as well.
Interpreters have full control over their voices, nevertheless their constant whispering may distract other participants. Incidentally, whispering is a considerable strain on the interpreter’s vocal chords. All this leads us to recommend whispering only for special occasions.

Must we set up the booths in the conference room? Can't they be set up somewhere else?

It is perfectly feasible to set up the booths in an adjacent room and have the interpreters work from there, but it requires a certain technical effort. Beyond the booths, interpreters also need a video feed providing voice and image of the speaker, of his visual presentation and of the participants raising question during Q&A sessions. This is important because human communication consists of up to 70% of non-verbal  elements. Our professional code stipulates that top-notch interpretation is only feasible when the interpreters enjoy an unobstructed view of the speaker and the room. Remote interpreting, i.e. video interpreting from another room, will remain the second best solution.

 

So why do we need booths for interpreters when only few people need interpretation? Wouldn’t a portable simultaneous interpreting device - i.e. a tour guide system - be perfectly sufficient?

Interpreters need sound-proofed booths in order to concentrate on the presentation and their work. It makes no difference whether they are working for two or two thousand people. When whispering into the microphone of a mobile tour guide system they will be seated close to the delegates in the same room and will also hear all the ambient noises and possibly get distracted. When the acoustic conditions are poor, single words or even crucial information may get lost. Interpreters are used to monitoring their voices, still other participants may feel disturbed by their constant murmur. In addition, this mode is quite tiring for the interpreters.

However, tour guide systems can be extremely helpful during guided tours in museums or production facilities. In these cases they can be a viable alternative to consecutive interpretation.

 

By the way: Using interpreters is an investment into the most effective form of multilingual communication - through the human voice.

What will a comprehensive budget for conference interpretation services look like?

Conference interpreters invoice daily fees which reflect their long and highly demanding academic training as well as their professional competence. These rates encompass the preparation work done at home and the work at the conference. The rate depends on the level of complexity of the assignment. Extra long working hours (interpreting for more than 6.5 hours per day) and/or extremely complex subjects with only scarce preparation time will call for an increase of the rate and/or possibly for an increase the manning strength of the team.

Depending on the place and schedule of the assignment, travel time compensations for travel to and from an event may be due, as well as daily allowances and travel expenses.

The linguistic version rendered by the interpreter is his intellectual property and thus protected. If it is recorded, streamed on the internet, or used for any other purpose beyond the immediate communication during the meeting, an additional fee will be agreed upon.

The management fee will be invoiced separately.

The same applies to the interpretation equipment rented from an outside provider which we will be pleased to propose upon request. This service can be invoiced by us.

Our transparent quote will provide a break-down of all these items.

Kindly take into account that the title ‘Conference Interpreter’ is not a legally protected professional denomination. This may explain the multitude of varying quotes on the market for conference interpreting.

What details do Binder & Christensen require to establish an accurate cost estimate?

To establish a tailor-made quote we need the following data:

  • Venue, date and schedule of your event
  • Subject and/or name of your event
  • Official language(s) of the event
  • Language(s) your event needs to be interpreted into
  • Preferred interpretation mode (simultaneous, consecutive, etc.)
  • Will you need interpreting equipment? If so, how many participants do you expect?

Even a tentative programme is a very useful tool to establish your language needs and a first quote. 

Each event is a dynamic process in itself and hence unique. We will readily take on board your updates re the requirements to make our quote more accurate.

We guarantee that we will treat your documents and information with total confidentiality.

How early should you get in touch with Binder & Christensen?

Some events are already being planned a year ahead. That is a good time to also think about interpreters. A comfortable margin will imrpove efficiency. And, of course, we will always try to cater to last minute calls. Even on weekends. Still, it is more convenient to plan far ahead since some interpreters (living nearby and for specific languages and specializations) may already be busy on the date in question.  

It therefore holds true that very early planning will allow for a more efficient and less costly interpretation service. 

Why is it worth asking experienced consultant interpreters to select a team of conference interpreters?

We are both experienced conference interpreters, we have demonstrable professional skills. We are familiar with the potential pitfalls of our activity. We have years of experience in the composition of interpreters teams and we regularly work with them. This allows us to assess potential contingencies (risk management) and provide our clients with the best possible advise.  

For each and every event, we choose the best and most experienced among them, while at the same time cautiously balancing cost and performance. We guarantee to take care of all aspects related to our work. This allows our clients to fully concentrate on all other aspects of their events.

This comprehensive service is generally not proposed by agencies offering the interpreting services as part and parcel of a ‘Conference Package Deal’.

This is why it is worth relying on true experts when it comes to all aspects of conference interpretation. 

Is B&C a conventional agency for linguistic services?

No. Contrary to most agencies, B&C is run by two active professional interpreters with university degrees. We receive your order and individually fulfill all requirements from A to Z. We do the planning, we establish budgets and quotes, we interpret and take care of the invoicing. Therefore we know all the challenges one encounters when putting together multilingual teams of interpreters. These challenges go well beyond languages alone. Our experience of many years has taught us that only active interpreters can oversee all details pertaining to this service. That is the crucial difference between us and an agency. Give us a chance to prove it to you – because your event is truly unique in every sense of the word.

Why aren't there references on this website?

Together we have racked up sixty years of professional experience, of around two thousand events in around one hundred countries. For clients known the world over. We have been serving some of them for more than twenty years. We know why total confidentiality and data protection are of paramount importance. Therefore these are essential elements in our professional ethics. For this reason you do not find names or testimonials of our clients on this page.