Practice of Consecutive and Simultaneous Interpretation in the Business, Media & Foreign Affairs context

1. Types of Translation and Characteristics of Foreign Affairs Translation

The scope of translation activities is wide. As far as its translation methods are concerned, there are two types of translations from Oriental into Western languages ​​(referred to for example as “Chinese to English language”) and Western languages ​​to Oriental. As far as its working method is concerned, there are oral translation (referred to as “interpretation”) and written translation (referred to as “translation”). Interpretation includes consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation. In terms of its degree, it can be divided into full translation (full translation) and partial translation, such as excerpt translation. The above translations have both commonalities and their own characteristics.

The content of foreign affairs translation is mainly oral and written speeches and documents on various diplomatic and foreign affairs occasions. In foreign affairs, oral and written translation are often used at the same time. For example, the negotiation on the establishment of diplomatic relations and the negotiation on international conventions all require interpreters to be able to interpret and translate the content and results of the talks into words, which can become communiqués, conventions, treaties, memoranda, agreements, etc. Sometimes the interpretation is done first, and then the documentation is produced. Sometimes, the manuscripts are translated before speeches and speeches, and then they are interpreted on the spot.

The content of foreign affairs translation determines that it has different characteristics from translation in other fields:

First of all, foreign affairs translation is political and policy-oriented. Whether it is interpretation or translation, the content of foreign affairs translation is mostly the position and policy of the country. A slight error may affect a country’s political, economic interests, image, reputation, status and its international relations, and may cause irreparable losses to the country and its people. Therefore, the interpreter must take each interpretation very seriously.

Secondly, foreign affairs interpretation is very time-sensitive. The biggest feature of interpreting work is that time is tight, requiring interpreters to complete the translation process on the spot. Translations are also often time-bound. Sometimes the front desk is negotiating the establishment of diplomatic relations with a certain country, and the back office is translating the communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations at the same time, revising it at any time according to the negotiation situation at the front desk, and printing out a proof sample at any time and sending it to the front desk for use. In many cases, not long before the leaders go to visit, the final version of the speech to be used during the visit is sent to the interpreter for translation, and multiple procedures such as final translation, typing, and proofreading need to be completed in a short period of time. Sometimes leaders of countries participate in international summit meetings, and they handwrite impromptu speeches or revise the pre-drafted speeches in person according to the meeting process and situation. In the hands of the simultaneous interpreters at the meeting venue, to ensure the translation effect.

Furthermore, the political nature of foreign affairs translation also determines its strong confidentiality. As a translator, speeches and other documents that have not been officially published, which are often translated, should never be disclosed to the outside world.

2. Foreign affairs translation

Translator does the written translation. The content of foreign affairs translation is mainly speech drafts on various diplomatic and foreign affairs occasions, such as speech drafts at national meetings, toasts at banquets and receptions, as well as speeches and statements used in diplomatic negotiations, and notes between countries, letters, communiqués, agreements, treaties and other official diplomatic documents. The tools for translation used to be manual and electric typewriters, then word processors, and now computers. The result of the translation is the written translation. It is for external provision, public publication, and long-term preservation, and must stand up to scrutiny, pondering, and scrutiny. Statements by the government or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, leaders’ speeches, and toasts are highly policy-oriented. Communiqués, agreements, treaties, protocols, international conference documents, etc. are of an international legal nature. Therefore, the requirements for written translation are very high, not only requires the translation to be correct, accurate, complete and rigorous, but also requires the translation to be smooth and beautiful. The translated Oriental Language should be authentic and should conform to Oriental customs & habits, conform to the terms of the foreign language. This requires translators to have higher foreign language skills and mother tongue foundation. Oral translators seem to be beautiful, but in fact, like translators, they need professionalism, responsibility and dedication.

3. Foreign Affairs Interpretation

Interpretation, also known as oral interpretation, is on-site translation. The main task of foreign affairs interpreters is to serve as on-site interpreters during negotiations, talks, and conversations between two or more parties when my leaders are visiting or when foreign leaders visit, and impromptu interpreters for presentations, speeches, or visits on various occasions. In bilateral talks, this kind of translation usually adopts consecutive interpretation. Simultaneous interpretation is usually used in various conferences such as international seminars, international conferences, and annual meetings of international organizations.

To become a qualified interpreter, in addition to the general quality of translation, it must also have some special qualities. For colleagues engaged in foreign affairs interpreting, whether it is consecutive interpreting or simultaneous interpreting, the first link of translation is listening. Translation can only be done if the original words are understood. Therefore, it is extremely important that the interpreter has a keen sense of hearing. The interpreter has good hearing, and also needs to have good listening conditions.

The colleagues who do consecutive interpreting often sit or stand behind or beside the leaders, and those who do simultaneous interpreting mostly sit in the simultaneous interpreting box above the venue. Such a position helps the interpreter to hear clearly. But translators sometimes have to translate in various environments. For example, in a large-scale press conference, the interpreter needs to understand the questions raised by the reporter from a distance. When leaders visit, the interpreters sometimes have to translate in the roar of machines or the noise of human voices.

It is not always the case that the simultaneous interpretation booth has a sound insulation effect, and sometimes it is necessary to perform simultaneous interpretation directly in front of the participants in a corner of the venue. All of these conditions can affect listening. For these factors that affect listening, interpreters are powerless in most cases. In order to ensure a better completion of the interpretation task, the interpreter should arrive at the scene in advance and do a good job in the equipment. For simultaneous interpreters, preparations should be made in advance to check whether the headphones are plugged in correctly and whether the position of the button is accurate. But more importantly, take targeted measures from your supervisor to improve your hearing. For example: listen to foreign languages ​​with various accents, summarize the rules, and become familiar with accents. Expanding our knowledge, familiarity with the situation and the issues we are talking about, helps us make “intelligent guesses” based on the approximate sounds we hear, in order to accurately understand the original words.

Consecutive Interpretation of Foreign Affairs

In consecutive interpreting, the speaker stops every few sentences or paragraphs to allow the interpreter to translate. In foreign affairs activities, this method of translation is mainly used in occasions such as meetings, meetings, talks, dialogues, consultations, negotiations, visits and visits between Chinese and foreign leaders. The on-site translation time is tight, and there is no time for translation consideration, which requires fast translation response, high language level, and strong language conversion ability. In most diplomatic conversations, especially during talks, dialogues, consultations, negotiations and negotiations, Oriental and Western leaders mainly discuss bilateral relations and exchange views on the international situation and international issues. Their conversations are often very policy-oriented and sometimes very sensitive. In this case, the translation must be accurate, complete and without omissions. When visiting and sightseeing, watching a performance, having a meal and accompany the car and other casual conversations in private, sometimes you can be more flexible.

Simultaneous interpretation of foreign affairs

Simultaneous interpretation refers to the interpretation by the interpreter while the speaker is speaking at an international conference. The speaker speaks without interruption, and the interpreter listens and translates. Simultaneous interpretation is the most difficult of interpretation.

Simultaneous interpretation began at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Official simultaneous interpreters were employed for the first time at that meeting. From 1919 to the end of World War II, international conferences during this period used interpreters in both English and French for simultaneous interpretation. In 1945, the United Nations was established and stipulated that Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish were the official and working languages, and Arabic was added later. 

Chinese Precedent Experience

Due to the obstruction of the United States and some Western countries, China’s legitimate seat in the United Nations had been taken by the Taiwan Nationalist Party. At that time, the United States gathered some countries to implement a policy of isolation and blockade against China, and the new China did not participate in many international conferences in the 1950s and 1960s. Therefore, during that period, New China basically did not have its own simultaneous interpreters. In 1971, the 26th United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passed Resolution 2758, which “restores all the legal rights of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations and immediately expels the representatives of the Kuomintang bloc from all United Nations agencies.” Since then, China has actively participated in the activities of the United Nations and its specialized agencies, and actively participated in various international conferences, so there is an urgent need for simultaneous interpretation talents. In 1979, the Chinese government and the United Nations Headquarters entrusted Beijing Foreign Languages ​​Institute to offer a training course for United Nations interpreters. This is the first time in China’s history that international organizations and international conferences have formally trained interpreters and translators. Now, China has a group of simultaneous interpreters who have been working for the United Nations and other international institutions for a long time. Many ministries and commissions of the State Council have their own simultaneous interpreters.

4. Different characteristics of translation and interpretation, consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation

Translators can look up dictionaries, find reference materials, and discuss with colleagues. However, interpreting, whether it is continuous or simultaneous interpretation, must hear and understand the content of the speech at the same time as the speaker speaks, remember the original words and words of the speech, and immediately express it clearly and accurately in another language come out. They have no time to think, no conditions to look up dictionaries, sources, and discussions with others. Furthermore, people tend to speak with accents and styles of speech vary. Some prefer to use simple and clear short sentences, while others prefer to use complex sentences one after another; some are articulate and articulate clearly; Talking like a machine gun, the speed is very fast, and there is no pause between sentences. But in any case, people expect translators to translate quickly, completely and accurately. When the interpreter is working, he must maintain a high concentration of attention, and cannot relax or lose his mind for a moment. Otherwise, it is bound to miss listening, miss translation. They must also learn to take notes while listening, and begin to mentally translate what they hear into another language. In other words, translators must learn to do three things at the same time – listen carefully, take notes, and think about translation. This is indeed a highly intense mental work, requiring the interpreter not only to have good listening and understanding, but also to have a good memory and quick response.

The same is interpretation, consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation have their own characteristics. When doing consecutive interpretation, listening and speaking can be carried out in stages. When someone speaks, the most important thing for interpreters is to concentrate on listening, try to understand, and grasp the main content and key points of the speech. At the same time, taking some notes as appropriate. If you don’t hear clearly, ask the speaker to say it again. Or repeat it yourself, ask the speaker to confirm. When the speaker stops for the interpreter to translate, the interpreter refocuses on the translation. When translating, we must pay attention to the key points, pay attention to the accuracy and completeness of the meaning, the language is fluent and easy to understand, the speech speed is moderate, there is no drag, umm, no sloppy, no make up or pretend to understand. If you really don’t understand or can’t think of the corresponding words, you can ask the Asians or Westerners for a relative exposition. Simultaneous interpretation requires listening and speaking at the same time, while listening and interpreting. It can’t wait for the speaker to finish a sentence and then turn it over, and then they won’t be able to keep up, too late. The difference between the translator and the speaker can only be one or two phrases, at most half a sentence. After the speaker finishes a sentence, the interpreter should finish the sentence as soon as possible. Moreover, no matter how the first half of the sentence is translated, you should try to make the second half of the sentence accessible, so that the translated sentence is basically smooth, and will not be broken, or the phrases and phrases are piled up in a disorderly manner. Although simultaneous interpretation can also throw away some wordy, repetitive things, and some insignificant modifiers; it can make appropriate generalizations and even omit irrelevant content, but it cannot fail to grasp the central meaning. The speed of simultaneous interpretation is determined by the speaker, and the interpreter can only adapt. In short, the consecutive interpretation must be accurate, complete and smooth. Simultaneous interpretation is difficult to achieve accurate, complete and smooth. Therefore, as long as the main meaning is not lost and 70% to 80% can be translated, it can pass and be accepted. The language also does not have to be completely faithful to the speaking style of the speaker, but should learn to translate long sentences into several short sentences, but not without sentences.

Consecutive interpreting has an advantage over simultaneous interpreting. When the interpreter does not understand, he can politely ask the speaker to repeat it or give some explanations as appropriate. And the interpreter of simultaneous interpreting sits in the interpreter box, when some words are not understood or missed, they cannot ask the speaker to repeat them. Compared with simultaneous interpretation and written translation, another advantage of consecutive interpretation is that the interpreter can also use tones, gestures, etc. to explain the meaning, so as to achieve the purpose of expressing meaning. Simultaneous interpreters sitting in the booths and comrades doing translations behind the scenes are unable to use gestures. When doing translation, if the interpreter does not know a certain word or character, he can explain it a little and translate the meaning. Simultaneous interpreters who asked to speak in sync with the speaker never had time to explain. It can be said that the expression of consecutive interpretation can be more flexible and richer than simultaneous interpretation and translation. The colleague with written translation requires the highest quality of translation, followed by consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation. But in terms of translation quality, the order is reversed. Simultaneous interpreters have the least time for deliberation and reflection. Conference interpreters can also take notes and think while listening. Although translation is often time-limited, there is relatively ample time for thinking, and you can also look up dictionaries and consult others.

Consecutive interpretation, simultaneous interpretation, and written translation have many common characteristics and common requirements, but also have many differences, and have different requirements for people engaged in different translation work. Because of this, in the United Nations system, the European Union and some other countries, there are separate staff for interpretation and translation. They belong to different departments. For example, in the European Union, those engaged in conference translation belong to the General Directorate of Conference Translation, and those engaged in translation belong to the General Directorate of Translation. The vast majority of colleagues in the translation room of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of countries have always been generalists, and they also do consecutive interpretation, simultaneous interpretation and translation. 

Of course, different people may have different emphases in different periods in view of various factors such as age, translation level, and work needs. Under normal circumstances, younger professionals do more interpretation, and older ones do more translation. There are also some colleagues who have good conditions in all aspects, and have a solid language foundation, and can go hand in hand with consecutive interpretation, simultaneous interpretation and written translation. But no matter which aspect they focus on, every professional must engage in translation, because translation is the foundation. Only with the accumulation of translation experience in ordinary times can we practice the quick response and proficient language conversion skills required for interpretation. Conversely, only by regularly engaging in interpreting work, in constant contact with living languages, and keeping up with the development of the situation, can we continuously enrich the language and improve the level of translation. The two are complementary. Therefore, translators should strive to become “all-rounders”, and become a comprehensive translator who can perform consecutive interpretation, simultaneous interpretation and written translation.

 Ukrainian School of Oriental Linguistics & Conference Interpretation provides a comprehensive and extensive field oriented interpretation training of professionals in different spheres to enhance the conferencing ability of active economic population in developing the contacts with the countries of Asia & Africa. Currently we offer the following courses in the field of consecutive and simultaneous interpretation.


Online classroom practice: online zoom practical interactive individual or group sessions

Self practice: home-task based course advancement exercises & the speaker’s toolkit deployment

Exam: upon the completion of each module for certification (A, B, C, D grade system by 100 point-scale to be indicated in the certification)

Certification: Electronic & Printed Certificate of Completion (sent by mail)

Recommendations: 2 Letters of Recommendation provided (1 on behalf of OLCI TRAINING (UA) , 1 on behalf of ECOHAB for further career advancement).

Bonuses: Guaranteed 10% discount for all next courses, +free participation in all our public lectures, workshops & events

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