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What is consecutive interpreting?

Consecutive interpreting means a time-delayed, oral transmission of a speech into another language. The interpreter first lets the speaker speak and takes notes before reproducing what has been said in the target language. Consecutive interpreting is particularly suitable for short speeches, negotiations or festive occasions.

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What does consecutive mean?

The adjective consecutive (Latin consequi: ‘following’) means ‘immediately following’ or ‘following one another’, whereby the sequence can be meant temporally as well as spatially or logically.

Working method for consecutive interpreting

Consecutive interpreting is the oldest method of language transmission. In this case, the interpreter speaks only after the speaker has finished his or her contribution or individual paragraphs, i.e. the interpretation is time-delayed. The interpreter uses a special note-taking technique (also called notation) in order to reproduce the speech in as much detail and as accurately as possible.

Notation in consecutive interpreting

Especially in complicated situations, notes can be very helpful for interpreters. In the short time available, however, it is impossible to write down what was said sentence by sentence. In a special notation technique, the consecutive interpreter therefore uses not only words and abbreviations, but also symbols or simplified drawings. Apart from individual words, the notes are usually language-independent, i.e. they look the same in every language and can be translated directly into German, English or French by the interpreter.

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FAQ: More questions about consecutive interpreting

What is the difference between simultaneous and consecutive interpreting?

In consecutive interpreting, individual sections of a speech are translated into the target language with a time delay, whereas in simultaneous interpreting the translation takes place in real time, i.e. while the speaker is speaking to his or her audience.

What does consecutive interpreting mean?

Consecutive interpreting means interpreting that is staggered over time, such as can be observed at festive speeches, discussions or other events. The interpreter first concentrates on listening and takes notes in order to then translate what is said into the target language.

Can anyone become a consecutive interpreter if they speak the target language?

To become a consecutive interpreter, you should have a high level of proficiency in at least two languages. But that is not all: as an interpreter, you should ideally have undergone training at a university or technical academy. As a consecutive interpreter, you should also be proficient in the notation or note-taking technique.

For which occasions is a consecutive interpreter suitable?

Consecutive interpreters can be a great help, especially at specialised conferences, negotiations and other events with a limited number of participants. If more than two languages are spoken, it is better to use simultaneous translators.

Why do consecutive interpreters use the note-taking technique?

The note-taking technique, also called notation, is used to record the content of a speech in writing so that it can be translated afterwards. The symbols and signs used are highly individualised.

What does the note-taking technique involve in consecutive interpreting?

With the note-taking technique, it is the content that counts, not the exact wording. Connecting words such as “but”, “nevertheless” or “therefore” are important, as they provide logical orientation. There is a separate symbol for almost every word. An example is the “smiley”, which stands for various phrases as an expression of joy, greeting or thanksgiving. If it is underlined, the wording is strengthened, for example connected with a “very”. The aim is to create a sign system that is as language-neutral as possible, which is made up of relatively few components and serves as a reminder.

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