What is conference interpreting

To have a better understanding of the work performed by a conference interpreter, it is essential to grasp to what extent the translation and interpreting concepts differ.

Translation means to convert a written speech from one language into another. The exercise behind this written activity allows the professional to have enough time to search the bibliographical information required to obtain a final text that is technically and linguistically accurate.

Interpreting means to transpose a spoken speech delivered in one language into another. Unlike translation, interpreting is associated to a strong unforeseeable component (more or less representative or frequent), which compels the interpreter to be especially concerned with the essential meaning of the speech transposed and not so much with its integrity. There are several forms of interpreting, the most common ones being: conference interpreting, business interpreting also known as liaison or escort interpreting and legal interpreting

Conference interpreting is used more often in the formal multilingual meetings, of a bilateral or multilateral nature, which were established in the 20th century.

In consecutive interpreting, the interpreter is alongside the speaker listening to the speech and taking notes in order to then reproduce the entire speech immediately after (consecutively), in another language, in his/her own words.

In simultaneous interpreting, the interpreter is part of a team. The interpreters sit in booths, in front of consoles equipped with microphone and headphones, listening to the speech and interpreting at the same pace for the listeners in the room. Simultaneous interpretation allows the audience to both speak and listen to what is being said in their mother tongue, without any interruption in the flow of communication throughout the entire meeting (one day’s work may last for 7 hours).

Each conference interpreter has his/her own language combination, which consists of:

Active language(s) – those in which the interpreter expresses him/herself

Passive language(s) – those which the interpreter interprets from