​What Is the Difference Between Consecutive and Simultaneous Interpretation

Consecutive and Simultaneous interpretation are the two main interpreting modes offered by interpretation services.

What Is Consecutive Interpretation?

In consecutive interpreting, the interpreter speaks after the speaker in the source language. The speech is therefore fragmented. As soon as the speaker is interrupted, the interpreter translates what has been said into the target language.


The speeches or parts of speeches to be interpreted consecutively are fairly brief.


Sometimes, depending on the conditions or subject matter and the interpreter's ability to memorize, the interpreter may ask the speaker to stop after each sentence or group of sentences. This requires less effort to memorize and presents less risk of omission.

Consecutive interpretation is often used by medical interpretation services.

What Is Simultaneous Interpretation?

In simultaneous interpretation, as the expression suggests, the interpreter listens, thinks, translates and speaks at the same time as the speaker.


However, before the interpreter can translate the speaker's message, he or she must be able to hear at least part of the sentence being spoken. Simultaneous interpreting is therefore never synchronized because there is always an inevitable slight time lag of a few seconds between the speaker's words and their translation.

Simultaneous interpreting requires extreme concentration which requires the presence in the booth of at least two professionals who take turns at the microphone every 20 to 30 minutes.

Simultaneous interpretation is often used by legal interpretation services.

Should You Choose Consecutive or Simultaneous Interpretation?

In deciding whether to choose simultaneous or consecutive interpretation, both the interpreter and the person using his or her services must bear in mind the impact of each interpreting type.


  • The consecutive interpreter has more control over the situation: he or she can clear up ambiguities, have the meaning of terms that are problematic to him or her repeated or clarified. Consecutive interpreting is still taught in most conference interpreting schools, where it is seen as a springboard to learning simultaneous interpreting techniques.

  • Simultaneous interpretation saves time. In a court of law, for example, as soon as the lawyer finishes asking the question, the witness can answer. This is a more accurate method than asking the liaison interpreter to hold back long bursts of sometimes disjointed information. Everyone with headphones can hear the witness's answer clearly, even if the acoustics in the courtroom are not very good. The interpreter is less fatigued, since he or she does not have to memorize lengthy interventions very precisely. The quality of the interpretation is therefore better.

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