FAQ about interpreting
Translators transfer written text from one language to another. Interpreters transmit verbal contributions from speakers, between languages that may be either spoken or signed.
The message is rendered into the required language(s) more or less in real time.
The speaker and interpreter alternate.
Spoken or signed language is rendered into other languages almost instantaneously. For spoken languages, the interpreters sit in sound-proof interpreting booths, hear the speakers via headsets and deliver their interpretation into a microphone. The interpretation is transmitted to receivers/headsets worn by participants, who can select the language they would like to listen to. As the work calls for supreme levels of concentration, interpreters usually work in teams of at least two so that they can take turns every 20 to 30 minutes.
Today, simultaneous interpretation is the most frequently-used mode of interpreting.
Whispered interpretation is a special form of simultaneous interpretation which requires no equipment and is suitable for a maximum of two listeners.
In consecutive interpretation, the speaker and interpreter take turns to speak. The highly-trained interpreter uses special note-taking skills to assist them in interpreting the speech. Consecutive interpreting requires about twice as much time as simultaneous interpretation. It is typically used for bilateral negotiations, short welcome speeches and some official speeches, arbitration proceedings etc.
A-language: Mother tongue
B-language: Active language. The conference interpreter works from and into this language.
C-language: Passive language. The conference interpreter only works from (not into) this language.
There is no single answer. The number of interpreters depends on:
- The number of languages from which and into which interpretation is required
- The mode of interpretation (simultaneous or consecutive)
- The length of the meeting
- The number of break-out sessions requiring interpreters
Example: For simultaneous interpretation for a series of presentations at a conference you can expect to require 2-3 interpreters per active language. More interpreters are needed if break-out sessions with interpretation are planned. You can find detailed information in AIIC’s Professional Standards. You may prefer to work with an AIIC consultant interpreter, who will analyse your language requirements and propose the best and most cost-effective solution.
For the same reason that you always have two pilots in an airplane cockpit. Simultaneous interpretation calls for supreme levels of concentration. To maintain the very best professional standards, the interpreters alternate every 20 to 30 minutes. The interpreter who is not interpreting is not inactive but helps their colleague by finding documents and jotting down numbers and names. It is teamwork.
This depends on the mode of interpretation to be used and the structure of the meeting.
For consecutive interpretation the interpreter generally needs the same equipment as the speaker (e.g. a microphone).
For simultaneous interpretation the interpreters require special equipment and booths with a direct sound feed from the room, and in some cases monitors, cameras, etc.
Your consultant interpreter or a reputable equipment supplier can advise you. Detailed information about the ISO Standards for interpreting equipment can be found here. For events with remote interpretation/video-conferencing, there is a wealth of information in AIIC’s Distance Interpreting Guidelines.
Interpreting is not the mechanical transfer of words, but the rendering of complex and technical content in accordance with the speaker’s intention. Every company and every organization has its own jargon. Interpreters use preparatory material such as presentations, background information and scripts to acquaint themselves with the subject and the speaker’s intention. They draw up lists of terminology so they can learn the specialist vocabulary before the meeting. With such preparation, interpreters fully master the subject under discussion and make sure that communication really works.
In line with AIIC’s Code of Professional Ethics, all documents are treated confidentially as a matter of course.
AIIC is the only international association of conference interpreters and has over 3,000 members across all five continents.
Simultaneous interpretation first became established in the years after World War II with the Nuremberg Trials and many other political conferences. There was a rapid increase in the number of conference interpreters. Some interpreters recognized by the early 1950s that the growing profession needed rules and representatives who could speak on their behalf. They established AIIC in Paris in 1953 and approved the first rules such as the Code of Professional Ethics and Professional Standards.
The titles “interpreter”, “conference interpreter” and “simultaneous interpreter” are not protected. With its stringent Rules of Admission, its Code of Professional Ethics and its Professional Standards, AIIC is a guarantor of quality in a confusing and varied market.
AIIC interpreters in the Asia-Pacific region serve their clients on a daily basis at events including:
- Corporate events
- Meetings of international organizations
- International conferences
- Contract negotiations etc.
The following aspects are important when selecting interpreters:
- Language combinations: from and into which languages is interpreting required?
- How many interpreters are needed?
- Qualified conference interpreters
- Professional experience
- Professional conduct and secrecy
- Professional standards
- Membership of professional associations such as AIIC
- Expert advice
- Transparent pricing
To learn more about why you should choose AIIC interpreters and how this will ensure successful multilingual communication at your event, click here.
If you have hired intermediaries to help you organize your event, remember to always inform that you want to work with AIIC interpreters. Make it a specification in your RFQ/call for tender, or better still, ask an AIIC Consultant to help design your specifications.
Fee: Interpreters are usually paid a daily fee which includes all preparation time for the assignment.
Cancellation fee: Once an assignment is confirmed, interpreters refuse other work for the same day. In the event of cancellation, they therefore charge a cancellation fee. This may be offset if another assignment replaces the one which was cancelled.
Travel time allowance: This covers time spent travelling on the day before or the day after the assignment.
Subsistence allowance: This is to cover the cost of meals, hotel accommodation and transport at the venue. If the client provides hotel accommodation, a reduced allowance is due.
Travel costs for travelling to and from the venue if not in the interpreter’s professional domicile.
Cost of interpretation equipment and other technical gear that meets ISO/DIN standards from a reputable supplier with a qualified technician in attendance throughout the event.
Copyright fee: May be charged if the interpretation is streamed or recorded for later use.
There are few places on earth where interpreters have not worked. And many interpreters have anecdotes about attending high-profile meetings where they had to learn how to curtsy, or tales of donning a hardhat on a building site or a rubber apron in an abattoir.
Common assignments include:
- Meetings or overseas trips with politicians or business people
- Technical conferences
- Meetings of governing bodies
- Meetings of sports federations, trade union internationals, international organizations and the like
- Media broadcasts