During international conferences, the interpreter translates either simultaneously (while the speaker is speaking) or consecutively (after the speaker has spoken). Simultaneous interpreting provided individually and without the use of headsets and microphones is called chuchotage (from the French for ‘whispering’).

Simultaneous conference interpreting

Simultaneous conference interpreting is used in conferences, meetings and conventions when real-time translation is required for more than one person. The interpreters translate as the speakers talk (speaking over them), without pauses and with a maximum delay of a few seconds.

Simultaneous interpreting requires special headphones and microphones for transmitting the audio from the speaker to the interpreter and from the interpreter to the audience receiving the translation. SMG UK also offers a special rental service for interpreting equipment.

Interpreters work in rotation

Interpreters can work for up to 90 minutes at a time. For longer work, they need to work in rotation and the internationally acknowledged recommendation is to use two interpreters who work in alternating shifts and a third interpreter for work lasting longer than 8 hours. Alternating shifts in pairs gives the interpreters time to rest and offer mutual support. It also minimises the risk of excessive stress or even burnout. High quality simultaneous interpreting or chuchotage is mentally very intensive work and failure to take sufficient time to rest can lead to physical illness.

Rental service for interpreting equipment

Simultaneous interpreting requires special audio equipment and a sound technician for installation and support. This equipment can either be provided by the client or by SMG UK through our customised rental service.

Below is a list of technologies used for simultaneous interpreting:

  • Infrared digital simultaneous interpreting system,
  • Light radio simultaneous interpreting system,
  • Remote simultaneous interpreting system.
  • Sound, video and lighting solutions.
  • Streaming services.


Conference chuchotage

Chuchotage is a form of simultaneous conference interpreting used when real time translation is required for just one or two people, with no need for technical equipment. The interpreter translates as the speaker talks, ‘whispering’ the simultaneous translation to the foreign listener(s) without interruption and with a maximum delay of a few seconds. The interpreter usually sits behind the foreign listeners.

For translation for more than 1 or 2 people, technical equipment is required, such as tour guide systems or remote simultaneous interpreting systems, which we can provide via our rental service.

For work lasting longer than 90 minutes, the interpreters must work in shift rotation.


Consecutive conference interpreting

Consecutive interpreting is used for conferences when delayed translation is required: the speaker says a few sentences, then stops, and the interpreter translates, and so on. This service does not require any special equipment but doubles the conference time because the interpreter translates after the speaker.

This form of interpreting is useful for translating a short speech by a foreign guest speaker and when you do not have the budget to cover simultaneous interpreting equipment.

For work lasting longer than 90 minutes, the interpreters must work in shift rotation.