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On this blog, we have dedicated several articles to the many types of written translation, including subtitling, transcreation, and certified translations, but have not yet delved deeper into the wonderful world of interpreting. This changes now, as we answer the most frequent questions about this unique profession.

What is interpreting and how does it differ from translation?

Interpreting is the verbal “translation” of spoken text in real time. Broadly speaking, the difference between translation and interpreting is the medium: a translator works with written texts, while an interpreter translates orally. Although both activities share a number of characteristics, the act of interpreting demands a specific set of skills, quick thinking, and adaptability.

As opposed to translation, interpreting takes place “in the moment” – depending on the type of interpreting, the interpreter has to listen to the speaker, process the information, and interpret the speaker’s words into another language almost simultaneously. To do this well demands a high level of concentration and specific training. Translation has the luxury of time, giving the translator room to think about using specific words and tone of voice, conduct research, and iron out imperfections with revision. An interpreter does not have this luxury – they have to think on their feet and produce a clear and coherent interpretation immediately after the speaker. Although some translators are also interpreters and vice versa, it is likely that these will be two different careers.

What are the main types of interpreting?

In a nutshell, the two main modes of interpreting are consecutive and simultaneous interpreting. With consecutive interpreting, the speaker and interpreter take turns speaking. The speaker will usually say no more than a few sentences or sometimes speak for up to 15 minutes before pausing to allow the interpreter to translate their words before continuing with their speech. Simultaneous interpreting is done at the same time as the speech and can be delivered through an earpiece or whispered to the listener without interrupting the speaker. The most appropriate settings for each type of interpreting will be the topic of our next article.

Where is interpreting needed?

Interpreting is required at a variety of public and private events attended by people from different linguistic backgrounds. An interpreter will be present at official events, such as government visits, gatherings with international guests or speakers, international weddings, court hearings, and business meetings with foreign clients or business partners, to name just a few. Perhaps the most well-known events with regular interpreting are the sessions held by EU institutions where its members can choose to speak in any of the 24 official EU languages. A team of interpreters from all member states ensures that all attendees hear their colleague’s speech in their native tongue, avoiding language barriers and possible miscommunications.

How do interpreters do it?

As mentioned above, interpreting is a very mentally strenuous activity that usually takes years of training and practice. Similarly to translators, interpreters often specialise in one or more fields of expertise and familiarise themselves with industry-specific terminology.

Regardless of their specialisation, interpreters require time to prepare before the event by studying the materials that will be discussed there. It is thus important to make any relevant documents available to the interpreter(s) in advance and give them all the necessary information about the topic, speaker, venue, duration and any other details they may need. The better an interpreter is able to prepare, the smoother and more accurate their interpretation will be.

If the event includes several speakers or lasts a long time, it is important to give the interpreter enough breaks. With such larger events, it is common to engage several interpreters who take turns, allowing for seamless interpreting without pauses.


At Alamma, we regularly perform interpreting for our clients and have covered a wide variety of occasions – from small business meetings to large events by renowned speakers. If you require an interpreting service, send us an e-mail to and let us know what you are planning and how we can help!