Unlike translation, which involves transferring written texts from one language to another, interpreting is exclusively about oral communication. Over time, the increasing need for human communication and the breaking down of geographical barriers through the development of technology bring about ongoing changes to the field of interpreting.
As things stand today, we can distinguish between 5 basic types of interpreting, each with its advantages and disadvantages:
The interpreter translates the speaker’s words simultaneously, using an interpreters’ booth. This type of interpreting is ideal for events involving more than two languages, and requires specialized equipment (booths, headsets, microphones). It was used for the first time during the Nuremberg trials in 1945, and quickly became the most common form of interpreting for multilingual international conferences and similar events.
Advantages: this is the most popular form of interpreting, due to the time savings it ensures, and also due to the fact that many languages can be covered at the same time, creating communication bridges with different audiences in real time.
Disadvantages: the cost of the equipment, and the technical infrastructure required are sometimes prohibitive, especially in the case of smaller events with a limited budget.
This is a very demanding type of interpreting, which effectively depends on the interpreter’s excellent short-term memory, good note-taking, as well as on how experienced both the speaker and the interpreter are.
Speakers have to interrupt themselves at regular intervals to allow the interpreter to translate into the other language, using the notes he or she has taken.
Advantages: No technical equipment is required, which means reduced costs and less preparation. It is a good solution for events with a small number of participants.
Disadvantages: The event’s length is multiplied, since everything is heard twice, in the original language and in the translated version. Moreover, this type of interpreting is practically impossible when there are more than two working languages.
Over time, the increasing need for human communication and the breaking down of geographical barriers through the development of technology bring about ongoing changes to the field of interpreting.
In whispered interpreting or chuchotage (the French term is widely used), as in simultaneous interpreting, the interpreter whispers the translation to a limited number of listeners, close to whom he or she is seated.
Advantages: As in consecutive interpreting, no equipment is required. Also, the translation is provided simultaneously, adhering to the event schedule.
Disadvantages: This is a very demanding and tiresome process for interpreters; unlike simultaneous interpreting, they have to translate to an open room while also keeping their voice very low so as not to disturb other participants. Also, for the above reasons, this type of interpreting is not suitable for long sessions.
This type of interpreting is used as a last resort, when a language combination cannot be provided by professional interpreters. In this case, relay interpreting and the use of an intermediate language is the only solution. If, for example, Danish to Greek interpreting is required – a combination for which there are no professional interpreters – then Danish to English interpreters can be used in one booth, while English to Greek interpreters in another booth translate what their colleagues are saying.
Advantages: This is the only solution in cases where the required language combination is not supported.
Disadvantages: This is “chain communication”, in which no link must be weaker than the others. This requires exceptional coordination between interpreters, and very high professional standards. At the same time, the cost is multiplied, with double the number of interpreters and double the equipment.
Moreover, special professional remote interpreting platforms such as Olyssei, with which Podium has an exclusive agreement for Greece, offer statistics on the event, ongoing support, recording of the event and many other features.
Remote Simultaneous Interpretation (RSI)
This is the latest development in interpreting services. The use of this type of interpreting grew exponentially during the pandemic, although it had appeared in less evolved forms in previous years, too. However, it has so many advantages that the consensus seems to be that it is here to stay. It effectively ‘liberates’ interpreters from the need for their physical presence, allowing them to work remotely, either from home or from special hubs.
Remote interpreting can take place entirely online, or in a hybrid environment, with some of the interpreters working at the event venue and others working remotely. Moreover, special professional remote interpreting platforms such as Olyssei, with which Podium has an exclusive agreement for Greece, offer statistics on the event, ongoing support, recording of the event and many other features.
Advantages: The cost is drastically reduced, since the interpreters’ travel and accommodation expenses are taken out of the equation, especially for events taking place outside of big cities. Moreover, no voluminous equipment needs to be transported and installed, with the corresponding cost savings. Finally, simultaneous interpreting in multiple languages can be provided, through a much simpler process.
Disadvantages: Such a service requires top-quality equipment and infrastructure, both for the interpreters and the organizers and participants; also, the participation of multiple speakers online creates another serious challenge vis-a-vis the Internet connections, the quality of which is a fundamental factor for the success or failure of the event. Additionally, the interpreters, already faced with the pressure of their work, very often have to deal with poor sound quality, which makes their task that much harder.