Different types of interpretation to best suit your interpreting needs

There are different types of interpretation, but the first thing we must understand is what exactly we mean by interpreting services. We often receive messages such as “we need to know how much the simultaneous interpreting for this conference would cost” or “what is your quote for the interpretation of a one-hour talk?”

It’s normal for those outside our industry to refer to professional interpretation as translation, although they are related, they’re quite different… Let us explain what professional interpreting is, how it differs from translation and the different types of interpreting.


What is the difference between translation and interpreting services?

Interpreting is a language exercise whereby a qualified interpreter conveys an oral discourse from one language to another. Here is the difference, in just four letters: oral. This method of delivery is what makes the difference between interpreting and translation.

We often find synonyms that, although they help us to understand, they are not the preferred professional terminology. It’s better to label it as interpretation rather than oral translation or speech translation, for example. Knowing this, you’ll be well prepared when you need this type of service.

What’s next? Knowing what type of interpretation each situation requires.


Types of interpretation

Now that we’re focused on interpretation, let’s clarify the different forms of professional interpreting. It’s not quite the same speaking for ten people as it is for twenty, or giving a lecture as it is delivering a verdict in court.

For each specific situation, one type of interpretation will fit better than another. Just as sworn translation isn’t the same as a transcreation, simultaneous interpreting isn’t the same as liaison interpreting.

Simultaneous interpreting

This is the best-known type of interpretation. It involves real-time interpretation of the original message in the source language. In order to carry out their job, the professional interpreter listens to one person and interprets what they say into another language.

Remember Nicole Kidman walking around the UN headquarters? If not, you probably haven’t seen The Interpreter, we recommend you add it to your watchlist!


Simultaneous interpreting is the best option for large events such as congresses, conferences or seminars. It’ll also be the most appropriate for those events in which the speakers have the floor for an hour or more, as it doesn’t mean using extra time.

Given the high levels of concentration required by the interpreters, it’s necessary to have at least two interpreters working shifts of half an hour each. The use of a shared booth with the corresponding technical equipment is also recommended.

Consecutive interpreting

This is the ideal type of interpretation for events shorter than thirty minutes, for example a press conference with a relatively small audience. It’s common to see them after football matches for example. Sometimes they don’t go as smoothly as planned.

Like when Mourinho corrected the interpreter (obviously whoever posted the video didn’t have access to our post as they labelled him as “the translator” …)



Consecutive interpreting consists of interpreting the speech once it has been made. This in turn is divided into two formats:

  • Full consecutive interpreting, in which the speech is interpreted once it has been completed.
  • Fragmented consecutive interpreting, in which there are pauses from time to time to allow the interpreter to do their job.

During consecutive interpreting, the interpreter is usually alongside the speaker. This way, they can take notes to help carry out their interpretation and they become the centre of attention when speaking.

It must be taken into account that, depending on the number of people in the audience and the surroundings of the room, technical equipment such as receivers or microphones may be needed.

Liaison interpreting for meetings

Liaison interpreting is that which takes place in communicative situations involving several people who speak two or more different languages. In this case, they interpret in both directions (from Spanish to English and from English to Spanish for example). It is essentially, a type of consecutive interpreting.

It’s ideal as a personal interpreting service for business visits, individual meetings, working lunches, etc. and no specialised team is needed to carry it out.

What is needed is for the interpreter to be willing to do it, since not all professionals in this sector work in both directions.

Official sworn interpreting

Sworn interpretation is also a form of consecutive interpreting, but the difference is that it has official status. As strange as it may seem, it’s not necessary to have any qualifications to carry out the interpretation, which is necessary in the case of a sworn translation.

It does require, however, an oath that whatever is interpreted will be completely faithful to the original speech in the source language. This type of interpretation fulfills the purpose of interpreting speeches in trials, notary processes or events with official status.


Understand all types of interpretation and chose the one that best suits your needs

The general confusion between interpreting and translation services is one of the questions that we most frequently receive from our clients. That’s why we’ve made this post to inform you in advance about what each concept and each service consists of. Only by knowing what you need, will you be able to request the service that best suits your needs.

At Ontranslation, we can advise you on these matters, as we have authentic professional interpreters at your disposal to offer you the best service. Always hire professional interpretation services, people with experience and who know what they’re doing, so you can avoid uncomfortable situations such as Nelson Mandela’s funeral…

Now you know what you need, what are you waiting for? Don’t hesitate and contact us.

About the author

Oscar Nogueras

Es el CEO de Ontranslation y dedica algunos ratos libres a escribir en este blog para compartir sus conocimientos sobre internacionalización, cross-border ecommerce y Traducción SEO. No es para menos, ya que entre su formación cuenta con una licenciatura en filología inglesa, un máster en tradumática, un posgrado en elearning y un MBA. En definitiva, una declaración de intenciones donde la cultura y los idiomas se sirven mezclados, no agitados.

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