What does a consecutive interpreter do?

With consecutive interpreting, the speaker and the interpreter take turns, speaking one after the other. The interpreter usually stands/sits next to the speaker and listens, sometimes taking short notes. After a few sentences the speaker pauses to let the interpreter translate his/her words into the other language.

When is consecutive interpreting used?

This technique is recommended for short events with two or a maximum of three different conference languages. It is the method of choice for press conferences, addresses at gala events, speeches at receptions, short presentations, etc. Consecutive interpreting is often combined with whispered interpreting or chuchotage or liaison interpreting.

What does consecutive interpreting involve?

For larger events we recommend that the interpreter be provided with his or her own microphone; there are no other technical requirements. It is, however, important to ensure that the interpreter(s) can hear the speakers well and can themselves be heard by the audience.

Please bear in mind:

  • The event will probably take twice as long as the interpreting requires as much time as the speakers' contributions.
  • The participants will first hear the speaker, then the interpreter, then the speaker again, etc. This can be tiresome during longer meetings, especially if more than two languages are spoken at the event.
  • The speaker should be informed prior to the event that his/her presentation will be interpreted consecutively so that the presentation's structure can be adapted to the frequent interruptions.

International Press Institute

„I am writing to you to express my sincere thanks for the work undertaken by all the VITA interpreters at our recent Conference in Zurich.
Without doubt much of the success of the conference was entirely due to the dedication shown by the interpreters who provided excellent interpretations of the speeches made by our speakers and panellists. The language used by our speakers was often highly technical and replete with legal and political phrases which all of the interpreters coped with admirably. Indeed the succinct interpretations paved the way for many of the lively discussions that took place at the conference."