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Interpreting for public authorities (e.g. courts, offices and the police) or for notaries, lawyers and experts, amongst others, is particularly demanding. Here, a combination of simultaneous, consecutive and liaison interpreting is used. The type of interpreting used generally depends on the individual situation. The more well-versed and experienced an interpreter is, the more easily he or she can adjust to the individual situation.

During a trial in Germany, an interpreter usually interprets for one person into his or her native tongue. This takes place simultaneously using whispered interpreting (Chuchotage). If this person says something, it is usually interpreted consecutively into German, as all participants in the trial should understand the person speaking.

The sight translation of documents is also part of the everyday activities of an interpreter at court. At a police interrogation, on the other hand, liaison interpreting usually dominates. When interpreting for public authorities, the interpreter not only acts as a language intermediary, but in many cases also as a cultural intermediary, thereby building a bridge not only between the two languages, but also between the two cultures.

Other forms of interpreting:

Liaison interpreting is bilateral consecutive interpreting between two interlocutors or in small groups. The interpreting occurs consecutively, meaning in turn, but usually sentence by sentence or paragraph by paragraph (often in the form of questions and answers). This ensures that the conversation remains natural and lively. In this situation, the interpreter generally does not have to take notes.

Liaison interpreters provide smooth communication between interlocutors. They are used in business negotiations and small meetings, by public authorities and doctors and when meeting business partners in restaurants.

One form of liaison interpreting is escort interpreting. The interpreter accompanies a person or delegation and interprets their conversations with changing interlocutors. This form of interpreting is common when attending exhibitions abroad, for example.

Visiting business partners from foreign countries are often provided with an escorting interpreter as well.

In addition to an excellent knowledge of the language and subject matter, other qualities are also important for escorting interpreters. The interpreter must be proficient in common social etiquette and have excellent table manners, as interpreting often takes place during dinner conversations.

Simultaneous interpreting places the highest demands on the interpreter. The interpreter must transmit the spoken word into another language virtually in real time. This act requires absolute concentration and an excellent knowledge of the language and subject matter.

Ideally, simultaneous interpreting takes place in a booth. Here, the interpreter listens to the spoken language through headphones and simultaneously interprets it into a microphone. From there, it is transmitted to the recipients’ headphones.

As speeches are often transmitted into several languages, booths are used for the various interpreters. The listeners then individually choose the channel which transmits their language.

This special type of interpreting is both mentally (high concentration) and physically (vocal stress) taxing and demands a sophisticated interpreting technique and high competence. Longer speeches are generally interpreted in teams of at least two interpreters. After about 20 minutes, the interpreters in the booth switch, as the ability to concentrate inevitably tends to lessen at this point. In order to interpret efficiently, simultaneous interpreters need the following information in advance:

From which language into which language shall the interpreter interpret? What country is the speaker from and what language or dialect does he or she speak? Will he or she be speaking in his or her native tongue? What country is the audience from? What is the topic of the speech? How long will the interpreter be needed?

It is in everyone’s best interest that the interpreter has all relevant documents on hand. It goes without saying that a well or efficiently prepared interpreter will be able to interpret at a much higher level and can avoid misinterpretations. Simultaneous interpreting is not only used for speeches, conferences and presentations. This technique is also used in court trials and similar settings, where it generally does not take place in booths and is performed in the form of so-called whispered interpreting (Chuchotage). Authorities tend to use sworn and certified interpreters and/or interpreters who have been sworn in by the police.


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