30 November 2021

What is chuchotage?

Categoria: Linguistic Services

Chuchotage is a term that is rarely mentioned, so it is reasonable to wonder what it consists of.

Chuchotage is the French term for a type of interpreting, specifically an interpreting technique that involves whispering the translation into the listener’s ear. Indeed, the term comes from the French word “chuchoter”, meaning “to whisper”.

Interpreters are most commonly seen performing chuchotage on TV talk shows, where a foreign guest is accompanied by a person who translates the presenter’s or other guests’ words for them in a whispered voice.

However, whispered interpreting, another expression used to refer to chuchotage, is not suitable for every occasion.

When is whispered interpreting necessary?

There are two main factors in determining whether or not chuchotage is suitable for a given situation:

  • number of people;
  • available equipment.

Whispered interpreting is certainly the appropriate technique if only a very small number of people require translation. To be specific, it can be used for one or a maximum of three people.

Why this limit? For the very simple reason that if there were more than three, the interpreter would have to raise their voice to ensure that everyone could hear and understand what they were saying. However, this would make it more difficult for the interpreter to follow the speaker’s words, with the risk of losing the thread of the speech.

In chuchotage, the professional listens to the speaker’s words and translates at the same time; there is, however, a slight time lag between the two actions known as décalage, just as in simultaneous interpreting. The only difference between the two methods is the available equipment.

In simultaneous interpreting the interpreter works inside a soundproof booth using equipment such as headphones, a microphone and other electronic aids, whereas in chuchotage there are no technical aids available.

Whispered interpreting requires the interpreter to work beside the person who benefits from their language mediation, so the environment is more chaotic than in an isolated booth.

The interpreter’s only tool in chuchotage is their own voice, which must be precisely modulated to allow the speaker to be heard at the same time, while ensuring that the person receiving the translation can hear clearly.

Enabling a small group of speakers of a foreign language to communicate when working conditions don’t include simultaneous interpretation facilities: This is the context in which chuchotage is the perfect solution.

Situations can be quite varied: an interview, a meeting, a guided tour… The important thing is that the maximum number of people receiving whispered translation should not exceed the limit of three.

It also goes without saying that, under these circumstances, for the interpreter to work well, the surroundings need to be quiet.

How much does it cost?

Now that we have clarified what chuchotage is and when it is required, a third question remains to be answered: How much does it cost?

In practice, it is difficult to determine the exact cost of a chuchotage service since the rate charged each time is affected by several variables:

  • working languages
  • duration of interpreting
  • logistical context

Although it is fairly easy to find a professional who works with the most common languages such as English or Spanish, the same cannot be said for rarer languages, such as Korean or Chinese, and this is the first key factor that can affect the cost of interpreting.

The duration of the job is another key factor, since longer sessions incur higher costs, even though chuchotage is normally used for relatively short jobs (around half an hour), and in any event with a maximum contractual limit of 2 hours.

This limit is due to the mentally taxing nature of the interpreter’s work. Interpreting requires a very high level of continuous concentration, especially in the case of simultaneous interpreting and chuchotage.

Unlike simultaneous interpreting, however, chuchotage is only done by a single interpreter.

The absence of a second support professional on hand to relieve the first at regular intervals makes the job even more challenging and fatiguing. This is why, to ensure optimal performance, it is always best to limit the duration of chuchotage.

Last but not least, the location of the job, and therefore the additional costs associated with the interpreter’s travel, must also be taken into account.

On the other hand, as mentioned, hiring a single interpreter to perform chuchotage instead of a team of two interpreters, as well as the absence of specific equipment that would otherwise have to be rented, are two aspects that significantly reduce the cost of this service.

Chuchotage is one of the interpreting services provided by Way2Global. Thanks to our native-speaker interpreters, job management by our team of dedicated project managers and use of state-of-the-art technology, we can support every customer in choosing and delivering the service that best suits their needs.

Need chuchotage service? Contact us!


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