Consecutive translation in a pair: a necessity, not a whim


Gladiator on the arena makes a decision, said the ancient Romans. An interpreter who works more than three hours alone is no different from an ancient hero.

But two dozen centuries have passed since then, and there is no need to put the interpreter in the gladiator’s shoes. It is better to provide them with a partner and decent working conditions to get the best possible result.

After eight hours of consecutive interpreting alone, even with a lunch break and coffee breaks, the interpreter is always like a lemon squeezed dry. The hardest interpreting assignments I ever had in my life were those kinds of consecs when you come all washed up, and it takes the entire next day to sleep and try to recover. What if another assignment was scheduled for the next day, instead of having some rest? Then, you start living to the point of exhaustion which certainly affects the quality of your life and work.

Besides, in this format, it is hard to predict how the interpretation will proceed. It could be an intense reading of the text, non-stop exercises with intermittent lectures, or suddenly you might get the entire day of near-simultaneous.


Interpreting in a civilized way: the advantages of working with a partner.


Let’s analyze item by item why working in pairs is a comfortable format that ensures the necessary quality of interpretation:

  1. Assistance with interpretation during the breaks. Pauses are necessary in order for each interpreter to have a proper repose, the same as event participants. After all, they are only humans, at work. If they need an interpreter during the break, then it could be more willingly provided by one of the interpreting pair.
  1. Translation of evaluation forms and other short training materials during the event. An interpreter is entitled to reject any such requests during the well-deserved break, but they could also undertake the additional side-job when there is a support from the counterpart. If you have one interpreter, you’ll wear them out even more, without leaving a few minutes to catch a breath.
  1. Two interpreters for an assignment will leave more secure in the event of illness or other force majeure with one of them, especially during work trips. Besides, when you strain your vocal cords all day without interruptions, the chances of losing your voice get much higher.
  1. Two heads are better than one for glossaries and consistency in terminology. While the partner interprets, the idle colleague follows the interpreting, works with the glossary, confirms the translation findings, or selects the best equivalents. I really love the consistency in vocabulary that can’t be achieved if you don’t follow your partner.
  1. Compliance of the work format with international standards. This is especially important for serious foreign organizations. Please, be reminded that we have been on the EU track for four years now. Start the Europe with yourself, adhere to European standards.
  1. 8 hour working day It’s a huge burden to interpret for more than eight hours in a row, even for two people. From my own experience, I could say that at the ninth hour you still continue to talk but it’s no longer about the quality and accuracy of the interpretation.
  1. Possibility of switching to chuchotage. Chuchoatge, or whispering interpreting, is the simultaneous mode, while the simultaneous shall be done by two people. Hardly any consecutive assignment does not require a near-simultaneous at some point during the event. During most training sessions, it will happen as a rule.
  1. Showing respect for the project, for participants and for the event in general. When you can listen to lecturers or participants in the idle 30 minutes, you get to know more about what’s going on. It has a positive impact on the quality and accuracy of the interpretation. Colleagues learn from each other and improve their skill. It’s not that some interpreters are better than others but there are some life hacks that one could borrow to enrich their performance.
  1. Sustainability in quality assurance throughout the entire work day. By the end of the day, the quality will drop when there is one interpreter working, even with a lunch break and two 30 min coffee breaks.


Two interpreters double the benefit


The specificity of an interpreter’s work is that the brain never stops, possibly except for a lunch or a coffee break. Also during this time, you may have to engage in conversations or interpret them.

During the day, the interpreter cannot answer the calls, handle work emails, or manage invoices or other staff. You are out of reach for the rest of the world, during all eight hours of your assignment that have been completely and utterly offered to the client.

When working in a pair, you can sometimes devote half an hour of the break to your work routines. Then again, evenings are free for a proper rest and engagements with your family and friends.

Your interpreter will be grateful to you for this opportunity, they will remain fresh and full of energy until the evening, and will enthusiastically give this energy to your project, which eventually will have a positive impact on the quality.

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