19 January 2022

The characteristics and advantages of consecutive interpreting

Categoria: Linguistic Services

Consecutive interpreting involves oral translation of a speaker’s speech by an interpreter.

More specifically, in this form of interpreting, the speaker talks for a few minutes and then takes a break, giving the interpreter time to translate the speech into the target language for the benefit of the audience, using notes and annotations made on a pad of paper or electronic device.

The alternation between speaker and interpreter and the latter’s minimal use of tools are the characteristics that make consecutive interpreting the right solution for short events such as press conferences, official meetings, business meetings, etc.

The advantages of this type of interpreting are cost savings – since there is no need for special equipment or a team of interpreters – and the ability to more effectively communicate the message to listeners due to the delay in translation time.

Achieving this result, however, means hiring professionals who specialize in this form of interpreting.

Consecutive interpreters, gestures and language skills

Consecutive interpreters play a key role in the relationship between the speaker and the audience.

These professionals do not simply translate the speaker’s discourse into the audience’s language, but act as an intermediary between two cultures.

To perform this delicate task to the best of their ability, professionals must possess translation and cultural skills acquired through their studies and developed through experience in the field.

One of the most remarkable skills mastered by consecutive interpreters is specialized notetaking. Notetaking differs from typical literal transcription, as well as from shorthand. Consecutive interpreters do not write down the speaker’s words, but concepts in the form of symbols, which may be specially created by the interpreter, arranging them on a sheet of paper in a layout that resembles a mental map, with a hierarchy based on the importance of the information. This is a very complex technique that requires interpreters to have outstanding active listening ability and a highly trained short-term memory. They must actively listen to the speaker with the aim of remembering and reproducing the content in the target language accurately and faithfully. The notes merely serve as a back-up tool.

In addition to the skills above, which are basic skills indispensable to this job, it is equally essential to possess strong communication skills.

While interpreters cannot change the meaning of the speech they are relaying in any way, sophisticated expressive skills are required to effectively convey any message.

Posture, tone of voice and gestures are all elements that a good consecutive interpreter must carefully control and adjust to suit the mediated content. For example, if required by the message and context, certain expressions should be emphasized with a stronger tone of voice or by accompanying the translation with emphatic gestures.

Care must be taken, however. Gestures, as well as certain linguistic expressions, often have different meanings across cultures. Consecutive interpreters know that knowledge of the culture of the countries where their working languages are spoken is crucial to avoiding gaffes or diplomatic incidents that could compromise understanding or even be considered offensive.

Consequently, every interpreting job is preceded by a long, detailed analysis and preparation stage during which the professional studies the topic of the event, researches specialist terminology and, last but not least, learns about the speakers, focusing on their particular communication style.

The choice of words and how to convey them is facilitated by the unique nature of consecutive interpreting.

Consecutive interpreting involves alternating between the speaker and the interpreter. The interpreter then has a moment of reflection to carefully consider how best to reproduce the message they have just heard.

Although a consecutive interpreting assignment is by no means easy, when you can establish a good rapport between the speaker and interpreter, and thereby facilitate smooth, natural communication with the audience, it is very rewarding.

Building bridges between people who speak different languages and facilitating understanding is what leads many interpreters to enter this profession. This is also the reason why translation agencies like ours have chosen to operate in this sector.

Cost of a consecutive interpreter

Calculating the cost of consecutive interpreting is by no means straightforward.

A complex set of factors must be considered.

Firstly, the required language combination must be taken into account. Costs vary based on the two languages (source and target) that require translation. This is not because one language is worth less than another, but simply because of the varying availability of professional interpreters working in the specific target market and in the specific sector of the customer’s business.

Finding a native Pashtun language specialist for a German interpreting assignment in Helsinki in the waste-to-energy industry is obviously a more challenging task than finding a professional who covers the English-Finnish language combination. Hence the varying cost.

Another cost factor is whether two interpreters are required in an arrangement called relay interpreting. For example, it may be rare or impossible to find an interpreter of some languages who can go directly into English, so interpreting from a Nahuatl dialect into English may require one interpreter to go from Nahuatl to Spanish and a second interpreter to go from Spanish to English.

Travel costs are another factor to take into account. If the only professional interpreter available on the market for a particular language combination and a particular niche industry is located far away from the meeting venue, travel costs will obviously increase the price of consecutive interpreting.

Nevertheless, it is also worth remembering that, as previously mentioned, other factors help reduce the cost of consecutive interpreting compared to other types of interpreting.

Consecutive interpreting does not require any special equipment, such as a soundproof booth or headphones, which are essential for simultaneous interpreting. Moreover, it only requires the necessary tools for taking notes: a pen and a notebook, or simply a tablet.

A further advantage is that consecutive interpreting, in bilingual meetings and with a maximum duration of half a day, can be performed by a single professional, without requiring the presence of a second interpreter to take over when the first one tires.

These factors help keep the cost of consecutive interpreting down, although it is a highly professional and mentally demanding service that must be valued and adequately remunerated.

Professionals who provide this type of interpreting have a multidisciplinary background, many years of experience and a high degree of linguistic and cultural sensitivity.

It is the combination of these elements that makes an interpreter an invaluable resource who plays a key role in the success of an event or business meeting.

Additionally, should the customer request consecutive interpreting from a translation agency, all the management and organizational work that goes hand in hand with language skills must be considered.

In this case, there are many professionals, such as Key Account Managers, Operations Managers and Project Managers, who support the customer so that the job is completed as successfully as possible. It is these professionals who assess customer requirements, propose the most suitable service (if necessary with a consultative approach that adds value), select the most suitable resource and provide all the necessary support for the interpreting process.

A team of specialized native-speaking interpreters, maximum attention to customers and a proactive listening approach to their needs, complemented by a procedural and well-structured work cycle: These are the key strengths of our service at Way2Global.

Facilitating communication between people, companies and different countries by overcoming any language barrier is our mission.

Our greatest satisfaction is offering our work to all stakeholders and build bridges between languages, cultures and regions to benefit everyone.

Need a consecutive interpreting service? Contact us!


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