The Hardest Varieties of Interpreting

Here are different interpreting formats ranked from least to most difficult. After each format is given the primary difficulty or difficulties.

1. Small group consecutive interpretation one sentence at a time — no special difficulty
2. Simultaneous interpretation in a booth — not falling behind speaker
3. Whispered simultaneous interpretation in close proximity to speaker — not falling behind speaker; adjusting pose and volume of speech
4. Large group consecutive interpretation one sentence at a time — psychological pressure
5. Small group consecutive interpretation multiples sentences at a time — note-taking; overloading short-term memory
6. Large group consecutive interpretation multiples sentences at a time — psychological pressure; note-taking; overloading short-term memory
7. Whispered simultaneous interpretation far away from speaker — hearing speaker while whispering; adjusting pose and volume of speech

As you can see, consecutive interpretation tends to be, on average, more challenging than simultaneous interpretation in a booth. That is why many interpreters avoid it. In a booth you feel anonymous. When interpreting in front of a group all eyes are on you. When doing simultaneous translation your short-term memory is not nearly as strained as when doing consecutive.

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(c) 2020 Richard DeLong, interpreter