Simultaneous Interpretation Microphone

5 Tips for Simultaneous Interpreting

In Blog by Rafael Morel

Simultaneous interpretation is one of the most difficult skills in the language services industry to master. You can often see this at conferences and courtrooms. Interpreters need talent and training to do what they do.

The margin for error while interpreting can be quite small, so those performing this service need every advantage they can get. If you are wondering how to improve your interpretation skills, here are 5 simultaneous interpretation tips to help you be at the top of your game.


Interpreters are essentially doing two things at once: listening and interpreting. That is why the ability to anticipate what’s coming next can be useful. With experience, you’ll naturally get better at this skill, but it’s something you can work on outside of work as well.

For one thing, you can do simultaneous interpretation training. This will significantly help you improve. On the other hand, you can try consecutive interpretation exercises.

For example, whenever you are listening to someone speak, pay close attention and see if you can predict what they’re going to say next.

This is easier if you’re familiar with the speaker, which may or may not be the case while at an interpreting assignment. However, if you can learn to anticipate what’s coming next, your interpretations at conferences and other events will become much smoother.


Interpreting is a difficult task, so challenge yourself with an even more difficult task to prepare yourself. For instance, listen to a speech while focusing on another task. This can be something as simple as writing down a grocery list or making a list of all your friend’s birthdays.

Afterwards, try to see how much of the speech you can remember. It may not be much at first, but if you keep doing brain exercises like this, your skills in interpretation at the same time will start to improve.

You definitely won’t regret doing these kinds of simultaneous interpreting exercises, as they will help you develop in the long run.


Knowing a language is a given when doing simultaneous interpreting, but knowing a culture is another matter. Every culture has words and phrases that only make sense to people from that culture. Being unprepared for one of these colloquial phrases can trip you up. That’s why it is important to understand each language along with its cultural background.

For a glimpse into how diverse and unique our way of communication is, check these fascinating 50 facts about languages from all across the world.


When interpreting, it’s important to keep your voice at a reasonable volume. If it’s too low, people won’t be able to hear you. However, you may overshadow the speaker if your voice gets too loud.

It’s important that you don’t attempt to match the volume and tone of the speaker. This is because the audience can tell if he’s being animated or intense during his speech. Instead, speak in a manner that makes you comfortable, just as long as you’re not speaking too loudly.

Keep this tip in mind because it is one of the simultaneous interpretation techniques that you’ll want to remember.


This may be a given, but it warrants repeating. Make sure you don’t react to anything the speaker is saying or doing; that’s not your job. No matter what happens, stay focused on providing the best interpretation at the same time.

If the speaker goes off on a tangent, starts speaking too fast, or starts shouting, don’t allow it to interrupt what you’re doing. If you start to get frustrated, you’ll either fall behind or start making mistakes.

All you can do is stay calm and remain focused on the task at hand, only worrying about the things you can control. To reiterate, keep in mind consecutive interpreting practice exercises when interpreting for someone. You could also think about simultaneous interpreter training as well.

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What Does Simultaneous Interpretation Look Like in Practice?

What does a typical work day for a simultaneous interpreter look like? Usually, simultaneous interpreters work from the confinement of a soundproof booth. As mentioned earlier, the job of an interpreter is to listen to the speaker and interpret their words at the same time.

Often, the interpreter listens and translates the speech with a delay of up to 30 seconds. All participants of an event can hear the interpreter through headphones.

In many cases, hiring at least two interpreters is necessary, as this job requires the utmost focus. Two interpreters take turns, with each of them working for about 20 to 30 minutes and then taking a 10 to 15-minute break.

This system allows simultaneous interpretation to be as clean and error-free as possible. The interpreter listens to the speaker through the headset and translates their speech. Then the translated speech is transmitted to the attendees.

What Qualities Should a Good Simultaneous Interpreter Have?

Following our tips can help you become a great interpreter, but like with every profession, some traits and competencies may be particularly useful in this line of work. What are they?

  • Very advanced knowledge of a foreign language. It’s expected that someone who does verbal translation knows the language that is being translated as much as educated native speakers. Not only that, but a good interpreter has to know their own native language exceptionally as well.This is pretty self-explanatory. Correct communication requires extensive knowledge of different language norms, cultural differences, and contexts, as well as specific technical terminology. Often, simultaneous interpreters have such skills in more than one language, and many of them have the experience of living in those countries and cultures that they are working with.
  • Stress management. An interpreter should have great stress management skills, as this profession is connected with public speaking and being under pressure. It’s also a tiring job, so keeping your cool in intense situations and maintaining a high quality of work no matter what is valuable.
  • Constant growth. If you’re ready never to stop learning, this profession is for you. In this job, interpreters have to converse, listen, and speak about a variety of topics, so it’s beneficial to stay informed and constantly fill up the gaps in your knowledge.Additionally, languages also change and evolve with time, so effective communication requires staying on top of new developments.
  • Maintaining full concentration for long periods. As is apparent from this article so far, translating is very challenging work. Simultaneous translation can be successfully done only when the interpreter stays focused for long blocks of time.
  • Pleasant voice. Of course, that is very subjective, but people working with their voices like actors, speakers, and interpreters, should have a pleasant tone of voice, and they should know how to work with their voices according to the circumstances of their assignment.In the case of translation, more often than not, they should keep their voices steady and at a moderate volume, as we’ve already discussed.
  • Specialty knowledge. There is a high demand for interpreters specializing in specific industries and fields. A good example is the medical field, which requires knowledge of medical terminology.Fields like law, finance, business, politics, or science will demand the usage of specialized terminology to overcome language barriers. If you want to become a simultaneous interpreter, it’s a good idea to take an interest and gain some competencies in one or more of these fields.

Advantages of Simultaneous Interpretation

The most significant advantage of simultaneous interpreting is maintaining the smooth and natural flow of a presentation. As the interpreter translates the speech in real-time with minimal delay, all participants should be able to immediately access the presented information in a very accessible form.

This will ensure the attendees are fully informed, giving them the necessary tools to have discussions and be active participants.

Furthermore, listening to the speaker and the interpreter makes the audience more focused on what is being said. The attendees must pay attention to the speaker and the interpreter, which means they have at least two focal points that keep them attentive.

Overall, simultaneous interpretation services are, in most cases, invaluable. It’s one of the best ways to ensure all of the conference’s guests have the most optimal conditions to partake in the event and be a part of the conversation.

Disadvantages of Simultaneous Interpretation

Conference interpreting is not entirely deprived of flaws or, more specifically, organizational and technical challenges. For one, there’s usually a need to hire at least two interpreters per target language. This comes with more expenses for organizers.

Additionally, they have to provide special equipment for simultaneous interpreting to take place, like an interpreting booth, personal wireless receivers, conference headsets, microphones, and more.

Organizers can invest in such equipment or rent it out as needed, which can help reduce the costs a little.


There are no quick ways to become an excellent simultaneous interpreter. Usually, it takes a lot of work, constant learning, and a whole lot of stamina to be suitable for this profession. There are ways to be more competent and sure of yourself when working as a translator, however.

For one, interpreters should always practice their skills and work towards getting new competencies. This job is all about learning and revising. It’s crucial for interpreters to stay immersed in the cultures and languages they specialize in.

It’s also not the most optimal profession for those who have trouble controlling their emotions and staying calm and composed in stressful scenarios, so if you can, you should be well-placed to excel.

Lastly, being an interpreter requires staying focused on a specific task for long periods. It is constant training for your mind, so it’s something to be mindful of when choosing this profession.

If you are in need of simultaneous interpretation or document translation services, Lighthouse Translations is able to help, let us know your requirements here