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Many are comfortable in two, even three, languages, enough to go shopping or to converse with others at dinner. However, if you have business to conduct in another language, then every key word counts. Like a missing comma, a misinterpretation of a seemingly simple phrase could be important to you and your business.

While conference interpreters are viewed as a matter of course for international organizations, they are often considered a "necessary evil" in the private market. However, after having experienced a meeting with our conference interpreters, our clients see our function as a most helpful "language bridge".

Our interpreters are graduates. They translate into only one language, their mother tongue (that of the listener) and interpret from two, three or sometimes four foreign languages (that of the speaker/s). There is nothing more reassuring than listening to somebody in one's own language, is there?

If languages (other than your own) drive you to despair, get help from a pro. It may not be the cheapest solution but it is the one most likely to bring you lasting results. A bit like DIY, we all try it once - then we get help.

There are three types of techniques:

simultaneous interpreting

consecutive interpreting

liaison interpreting

Simultaneous interpreting

Simultaneous interpreting can also be provided in a whispering mode, for 1 - 4 people, all of whom must position themselves close to the interpreter, who in this case does not work with a microphone or headsets.

Another possibility is the bidule system, a kind of attaché case with one microphone for the interpreter and headsets for about 20 listeners, which can be sent by mail to the meeting organizer. The bidule system means no booths or technicians are necessary. The interpreters sit near the speaker and whisper simultaneously into a microphone which transmits their voices to the headphone worn by the listeners. This interpretation system may be used with small groups and for short meetings of a maximum of 3 hours; in this mode of interpreting, we too always work in a team of two.

If no built-in installation is available at a conference venue, the organizer may hire and install mobile booths. Today's technology allows clients to hold meetings with interpreters almost anywhere.

This is the most common type of interpreting as it is used daily in EU institutions, at the UN and in other international organizations or in the private market. The interpreters sit in a «booth» and listen to speeches in one language through a pair of headphones. They interpret the speech by speaking into a microphone which transmits their voice to the headphones worn by the listeners in the audience.

Simultaneous interpretation requires a great deal of concentration by the interpreter, so during multi-language conferences, two interpreters work per «booth» or per target language, in a half-hour-on, half-hour-off rhythm. Therefore, if the conference languages are e.g. German, English and French, there will generally be six interpreters. Working hours: a maximum of 7 hours with a lunch break of at least one full hour.

Technical equipment and professional sound engineers are as important for the success of the conference as the interpreters themselves. Booths, microphones, headsets and loudspeakers must work properly, particularly as interpreters are not trained to cope with technical problems if these should arise during a meeting. A number of Swiss companies specialize in conference technology. Interpreters and technicians often get to know each other over time and thus function as a team.

Consecutive interpreting

This interpreting mode is mostly requested if a working group invites one or two speakers who do not speak the language of the group (e.g. at press conferences, brief workshops, interviews) and if the expense of a simultaneous installation seems relatively high.

In this case, the interpreter works from one foreign language (that of the speaker) into his/her mother tongue (that of the listeners), while taking notes and reproducing these at brief intervals in a somewhat concentrated form. This interpretation mode is used for short meetings only.

Good presentation and self-assurance are essential, as one frequently has to appear next to a well-known person (politician, celebrity, president of a party, company director, etc.). This mode of interpretation takes place without a microphone, headphones or an interpreting booth.

Liaison interpreting

Liaison interpreting is used at a conference table, in the courtroom, for interviews, during interrogations or inspections, among other things. Liaison interpreting works for two or three «listeners» and in two languages, going back and forth between their mother tongue and their foreign language, transmitting a few sentences from one language into the other. Liaison interpreting takes place without a microphone, headphones or an interpreter booth.