• dolmetschteam frankfurt

    Brigitte Hillebrecht
  • dolmetschteam frankfurt

    Brigitte Hillebrecht


Your Guide to Interpreting
Frankfurt is famous as a venue for international fairs, congresses and conferences. Communication among the delegates is often a great challenge due to the wide variety of languages at these events. The interpreters required for this are quite often looked on as a necessary evil, first because there is no replacement for direct face-to-face communication and, second, because increasingly there is no common language, or because the topics are highly technical and specialised.

Conference interpreters are professional language and communication experts who, at multilingual meetings, convey the meaning of a speaker's message orally and in another language to listeners who would not otherwise understand. The work of a conference interpreter is quite distinct from written translation and requires different training and qualifications. Conference interpreters use different kinds of interpreting that depend on the type of conference and the number of participants. These comprise:

  • Liaison interpretation:
    Ideally suited for meetings of small groups where only two languages are spoken, (business negotiations, factory/company visits, etc.). The interpreter interprets small sections, alternating with the speaker every two or three sentences. This method is recommended for small groups and up to three languages.
  • Consecutive interpreting
    Similar to liaison interpreting, usually suitable for larger audiences such as workshops, individual short presentations, receptions or press conferences.
    The interpreter takes notes while the speaker gives the presentation and subsequently interprets what was said into the target language. This can also be done after each section of a speech, depending on the speaker's rhythm. This method is only suitable for two languages. NB: The time required for interpreting is almost as long as that taken by the speaker, which doubles the duration of the presentations/event. As there is a risk that splitting up the presentation may have a negative impact on its “integrity”, this type of interpreting should only be used for relatively short speech contributions.
  • Chuchotage or "whispered" interpreting
    This method is more or less an “emergency solution”. The interpreter works for at most three listeners and "whispers into their ears" whilst the speaker talks. Chuchotage is extremely tiring for both the interpreter and the listener and should only be used in specific situations. The interpreter sits behind or between the delegates and whispers a summary of what is being said. The number of languages being interpreted in this way is mainly restricted by the noise level caused by whispering. In some cases it may be advisable to use a mobile interpreting unit, through which interpreting can be provided to a theoretically unlimited number of listeners, for example when visiting a museum, a production plant or a building site.

  • Simultaneous interpreting
    This is the most frequent type of interpreting used where time is an issue, and the method of choice for all multi-language events, such as press conferences, presentations, seminars, congresses, etc. Simultaneous interpreting requires technical equipment for transferring what is said on the floor to the delegates who require language support. The spoken word is translated into another language by the interpreter via a headset and microphone as it is spoken – i.e. simultaneously. Interpreters hand over every 20 to 30 minutes. Simultaneous interpreting is real-time translation. The number of languages to be interpreted is only limited by the space available in the conference room, because each language requires a separate booth. The delegates use headsets usually with a pre-set channel for the language required so that there is no interference from the other languages. The conference is supported during its entire duration by a conference technician who installs the technical equipment/booths usually a day or half a day before the event, i.e. for an event starting in the morning the conference room must be available the evening before.

  • Distance or remote simultaneous interpreting, video interpreting
    In this type of simultaneous interpreting neither the interpreter, the audience nor the booth are located in the conference room. The interpreting services are delivered from a distant site, with the interpreters receiving visual as well as audio input (e.g. by webcam and PC) displayed on screens via an online connection. This allows the secure transfer of information. Difficulties can arise if several participants are present/talking at the same time and the interpreter is not able to intervene. The success of an assignment of this type depends on the correct functioning of the technology and assistance of the on-site participants. Interpreting is not possible if technical faults arise or those involved fail to keep to the discussion rules.

To make things easier for you – and us – below we list some points to include in your enquiry:

  • Date and place of the event
  • Nature and subject of the event
  • Languages required
  • Programme
  • Number of speakers/participants
  • Type of interpreting
  • If simultaneous:
    • Is technical equipment available?
    • If not, how many delegates require interpreting?
    • How many microphones are required?
      Panel:                  Lectern:          Delegates:
      (speaker microphones, table microphones, portable microphones, stationary microphones)

Interpreting preparation

  • Inform participants that interpreting will take place and in which languages.
  • Provide interpreters with as much information (papers of speakers) and documentation as possible (if possible in the target and source languages) on the background and on the event programme.
  • In particular, inform all speakers/discussion participants that interpreting will be provided.
  • Speakers should provide the interpreters with manuscripts of their papers as early as possible (minimum 14 days prior to the event), including drafts, preliminary versions, technical literature, etc.
  • If speakers are not using a manuscript, provide slides, overheads, key words, technical literature, official texts or other publications specific to the topic.
  • Do not change language during the speech, and do not walk around if the microphone is stationary.
  • Talk at a moderate speed (not too fast, but not too slow either) and speak clearly (especially if reading a written text).

Please note in addition:

  • For consecutive and liaison interpreting (negotiations) calculate time required for interpreting to be as long as the speaking time; provide microphone for interpreter if required.
  • For simultaneous interpreting note that use of a microphone is essential. The interpreter booths are sound-insulated. The interpreters receive the sound via headsets and are unable to hear what is said if no microphone is used!
  • Interpreters are always happy to be provided with drinks in their booths (water, fruit juice, tea, coffee, etc.).
  • Technical equipment: If not available, ask the interpreters. They have contact with equipment providers and are ideally suited to advise you. As a rule, the booths should have the following dimensions: approx. 2 x 2.50 m x 1.50 m.
  • Location of the booths: Place booths in such a way that interpreters have a good view of the speaker and all information to be interpreted. The booths are usually located at the back of the room, behind the audience and with a view of the speakers. If films, slides or transparencies are to be shown and require interpreting, please ensure that the screen is clearly visible from the booths and that the interpreters have received a script or a copy of the texts to be projected in advance.

Brigitte Hillebrecht

Conference interpreter (aiic, ata, VKD, BDÜ) - Certified and sworn translator (BDÜ)