What are the Different Types and Modes of Interpretation? - Speak Your Language | Australia

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What are the Different Types and Modes of Interpretation?

Posted on: July 20, 2023 by admin

Interpretation is a form of communication that involves verbally translating information from one language to another to enable cross-linguistic dialogue and understanding. The process differs from written translation, as it requires the conveying of tone, variances in dialect, and other language nuances in real-time, in addition to relaying the words as verbatim as possible.

Four Main Types of Interpretation

There are four main types of interpretation that work to provide clear communication between people of different languages. The process of interpreting consists of the source language, the target language, and the interpreter. The interpreter will translate a person’s speech from the source language into the target language so that a second person can understand what they are saying. This process enables two people who do not speak the same language to be able to relay information to each other in a clear and informative way that does not lose any meaning or nuance.

The first and most common type of interpretation is consecutive interpreting. With this type, a person will deliver speech in the source language for up to 5 minutes and then pause to allow the interpreter to translate this into the target language for the other person. This will continue back and forth until all objectives of the conversation are completed. 

The second type is Bilateral interpreting, which is also known as liaison interpreting, and it works with a similar principle to the consecutive style. The main difference is that rather than two individuals working to communicate, it features two groups speaking through one interpreter. This form is most often used for business meetings and other more informal situations.

The third type is much more challenging: simultaneous interpreting. This translation occurs in real-time, with the interpreter having only a slight delay behind the speaker, instead of waiting for them to pause before translating. While this style is incredibly taxing on the translator — it usually requires a second translator to work as backup and can often only be completed in 30-minute blocks — it does have its place. It is ideal for live speaking events and conferences where there is a time constraint or it is important for the listeners to be engaged with the speaker’s body language in real-time. It is most often used in situations where few people speak the source language and many listeners require the translated version. 

The fourth type, Whispered interpreting, is very similar in how simultaneous interpretation functions, in that they are both translated in real-time with the speaker. With whispered interpreting, however, there is usually only one or two people who require the translation, which is told quietly to the listener or listeners. This form is often used in court settings to ensure all people present have a thorough and up-to-date understanding of the proceedings without interrupting the whole court.

Two Main Modes of Interpretation

While there are four types of interpretation, there are two main modes: face-to-face and over the phone. Speak Your Language offers interpretation services that can benefit individuals, businesses, and corporations alike. We offer interpreting in over 120 languages with industry-specialised, NAATI-accredited translators to provide the utmost level of professionalism, accuracy, and reliability.

Face-to-face or on-site interpreting is the most well-known form of the craft. It involves all parties being in one physical location for language translation to occur. Multi-language in-person meetings can be anything from business and legal meetings to court hearings and medical settings. An interpreter will act as a third party in these situations, and requires full understanding of and fluency in both the source and target language. On-site interpreting services allow for the complete translation of tone, nuance, and body language that might not otherwise be conveyed. Depending on individual circumstances, missing this can be a major, minor, or irrelevant issue.

Over-the-phone or telephone interpreting is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s world. These services can be planned in advance, where it can be initiated as a conference call between two or more parties and the interpreter, or it can be a more spontaneous task that arises in the moment due to need. With this mode of interpreting, all parties can sit on the call and work together to achieve the task at hand. Speak Your Language also offers two more specialized over-the-phone services: Reverse phone interpreting and message delivery interpreting. As opposed to the more standard method of phoning where your business, client, and translator will begin on the call, reverse phone interpreting enables your client to directly call SYL to begin translating, before then dialing in your business. This makes communication incredibly simple and allows both parties to have agency when making calls and sharing information. SYL also provides message delivery interpreting. This service allows you to leave a message for your client with your SYL interpreter. Your interpreter will speak to the client directly, relay your message, take their response, and then communicate it back to you. This helpful system avoids unnecessary waiting and hassle, and can keep everything very simple for you.


Each of these different interpretation modes, types, and services have their own benefits and fulfil the particular needs of varied circumstances. Interpretation services can take on any of these types and forms in order to best meet the requirements of your situation. SYL knows that it can be challenging to determine what service might be most beneficial for you. Fortunately, we can provide customized client solutions, allowing us to provide the exact type of service, quality, and capacity that is required for any situation.