What is simultaneous translation/interpretation – and how does it differ from consecutive translation?

In simultaneous translation the interpreter has to do two things at the same time: listen to what’s being said while translating into the target language in real-time. There is no time for thinking or contemplating. The information must be conveyed immediately!

It’s a huge, skilled, juggling act. Given the complexity of the task and the high concentration it requires, it is mandatory to perform this task in pairs– that is, two translators are assigned to the task, rotating every twenty minutes or so.

Simultaneous translation requires equipment (as in the UN) and is carried out in an acoustic booth at the side of the room or sometimes even outside the room (using closed circle TV). Inside the booth there’s a receiver through which the interpreters hear what is being said, which they translate directly into a microphone. The audience wears headphones and is then able to hear the translation. In addition, a technical team is always on stand-by for any equipment challenges.

Consecutive translation, on the other hand, allows a break between listening and translation. This normally means that the speaker will stop every few minutes, wait for the interpreter to translate and then continue speaking. Consecutive translation allows the speaker some time to think, which can be especially important in a courtroom, where a break between the question and answer is vital.

The customers must choose the best route for them, depending on the need. For example, we provided teams of interpreters to our client in Latin America. The event manager didn’t want to lose time in the process and preferred a seamless simultaneous translation. However, with another hi-tech organization that was giving a training course to Russian clients, time was not an issue, but money was! So they chose consecutive translation – with only one interpreter instead of two and no extra expense on equipment.

What are the key skills required by an interpreter?

First and foremost, the translator must have an extremely high level of proficiency in both source and target language and must be knowledgeable on the topic at hand, whether it’s legal, technological, financial, or even medical. He or she must be a quick thinker and a fluent speaker, with a good short-term memory, since there’s no time for hesitation, no option to pause for questions. To ensure the translator is well prepared, we also recommend to our clients to send us the topic notes, speaker bio and background and, most importantly, the presentations prior to the event.

Who normally requests simultaneous interpretation?

  • Conferences – Allow your speakers to lecture in the language they prefer, while teams of interpreters translate smoothly and seamlessly for your target language audience.


  • Training courses – Bring your international employees or clients for a training course on how to use your system or product and teach them the material without dealing with the awkward stops for translation.


  • Large Events – Political events (e.g, UN meetings), international company gatherings and multi-language group meetings. Simultaneous translation is suitable for events in which a large number of languages is spoken. Time is a vital resource and translation breaks are not an option.


  • Tourism – When groups of tourists from different parts of the world are following one guide, each group can be assigned an interpreter who accompanies it during the visit. In this situation, portable equipment is required.


Benefits of simultaneous translation:

There’s great time saving, as there are no breaks during the conversation. Listeners enjoy a smooth conversation flow, without  interruptions.

Disadvantages of simultaneous translation:

It requires larger resources – interpreters, technical staff, and equipment. Also costs are higher in comparison to consecutive translation.

How has Lichi Translations become a leader in the field?

Over the course of our 18 years in the business, we’ve had many international organizations turn to us for simultaneous translation. They appreciate the care and dedication that we bring to one of the most challenging services in the translation world. 

We employ highly professional experts, spread all over the world, who are not only excellent interpreters but are also very knowledgeable in many fields (medicine, technology, finance, law, etc.). Our team is able to accompany any group or audience for hours, weeks, or sometimes months of work, anywhere around the world – on any assignment.

If your solution is simultaneous translation (also called simultaneous interpretation), put your trust in Lichi’s skill and professionalism. Lichi is an established translation agency in Israel specializing in simultaneous translation and intepretation for special events.