What does an interpreter do?

1 Nov 2018

If you read our previous blog post about the difference between interpretation and translation, you may have thought, “Oh I know the answer of the title question: Interpreters translate oral conversations!”

Well, first of all let me tell you thank you for reading, and your answer is definitely right. So today, I’d like to dig a little more into the interpreting service from the user’s point of view so that we can have a better picture of an interpreter instead of imagining someone just sitting-in-a-booth and wearing-headphones.

What forms of interpreting have you heard of?

Generally speaking, interpretation comes in three major forms: consecutive, simultaneous, and whispered. Here’s an outline.

  • In simultaneous interpreting, the interpreter needs to be strong at multi-tasking: must listen to speech in one language, comprehend it, and translate it into another in real time. This type of interpreting is common for television or big conferences.
  • Consecutive interpretation, on the other hand, takes place in all fields but works best for smaller group conversations such as medical consultations or business meetings. During this form of interpreting, a speaker talks in short segments and pauses to let an interpreter translate into the targeted language. Thus, it takes relatively more time than simultaneous or whispered interpreting.
  • Whispered interpreting is performed when just one person requires interpreting and the interpreter sits next to the listener to translate quietly.

This is just a brief glimpse into this fascinating field though overall, these interpreting services can be used to bridge language barriers in various situations. Oyraa offers remote on-call interpretation and this can be classified into consecutive interpretation. But what you need to remember is simple: pause your speech sometimes to let the interpreter speak.


Rina is our contributor at Oyraa. Originally from Tokyo, she used to be an account executive at a tech company but followed her passion for languages after attending conferences in Singapore and the United States. She has since then become a translator and has lived in Honolulu, Dublin and now Lausanne.

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