Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” – Wayne Gretsky

Simultaneous Interpreting workshop and professional development for interpreters that work primarily in consecutive mode.

The line between consecutive and simultaneous modes of interpreting are regularly being blurred. Though community interpreting has traditionally been taught and perceived as being primarily or exclusively consecutive interpreting, the reality is that community-based interpreters frequently find themselves in situations that call for simultaneous mode. [i]

Much anecdotal evidence exists where interpreters are given an assignment and, without warning or notice, will be asked to interpret in simultaneous mode. Perhaps, during a class or presentation, an interpreter is requested to sit with the client among a group of English speaking clients and whisper the translation of what is being said (also known as chuchotage) or, also common, they are expected to instantly switch from consecutive to simultaneous mode, mid-stream, or, as I’ve heard, interpreters are sometimes even expected to interpret along to a video being shown, in real time, like a human ‘sub-titler’.

When an interpreter finds themselves in such a situation, they might attempt simultaneous, and they might do well enough, but without the knowledge, proper training and practice, is one really achieving competency? Is the rendition accurate and faithful to the message?

Consecutive and simultaneous interpreting modes draw differently from the interpreter’s set of skills and abilities.

While consecutive interpreting relies heavily on an excellent working memory (aided by note taking), the simultaneous mode instead, demands a more urgent conversion of meaning. Both skill sets require education and practice. And both skills sets should be developed, and enhanced, by interpreters working in all settings.

Given today’s global crisis with COVID-19, but also more broadly the global shift to more frequent utilization of remote interpreting, many interpreters may be considering expanding their skills and incorporating simultaneous as something that they can offer. Or maybe it’s not even about expanding work opportunities, but simply improving competencies for the current situation.

Complementing your toolkit of services is always a good idea, and, as many of our students know, something that we, at The Interpreter’s Lab, always encourage.

Sometimes fear gets in the way of our professional growth.

We think we are not good enough or capable of doing something that we have watched experts master.

But we all have to start somewhere and exiting our comfort zones is where real growth happens.

As Wayne Gretsky once said, “skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.

Simultaneous interpreting is not simply confined to the booth any longer (and really, was it ever?) and, as a fellow interpreter comments, “the conventional image of court or conference interpreter doing only simultaneous, while community interpreters work exclusively in consecutive mode is like a false dichotomy — they’re not as neatly disparate as that.”

Acquiring the knowledge and skills to perform in simultaneous mode as effectively as in consecutive mode gives interpreters more than the obvious additional abilities and greater competency, it also boosts confidence – regardless of the setting.

And so, we invite you to:


Join us on April 16th and April 23rd for a unique workshop:

Simultaneous Interpreting: Out of the Booth and in the Community.

This unique professional development workshop is designed with interpreters that work primarily in consecutive mode in mind.


Below is a short blog written by our Program Coordinator – Annike Andre-Barrett – on her reflections of working in simultaneous mode from the perspective of an interpreter working primarily in consecutive.

On Simultaneous Interpreting from the Perspective of Consecutive Practice

Consecutive interpreting is like playing catch and simultaneous interpreting is like juggling.”  – Annike Andre-Barrett

In sports broadcasting, a sports commentator gives us play-by-play commentary of a game in real-time.

In other words, they narrate the game. In the case of radio commentary, the listeners cannot see what is going on, and the commentators try to convey the action on the field in words as quickly as it happens. Both the game and the commentary are being broadcast live. The commentator cannot pause the game in order to take note of the moves and then summarize them to the listeners, nor will the players stop to allow the commentators to catch up. The commentators must therefore keep up with each significant detail and ensure their listeners have all the key information to be able to visualize and follow the game.

I’m not really a sports spectator myself, but I thought of this as a fitting analogy for interpreting, specifically the art of simultaneous interpreting. Radio commentary makes more sense in this comparison, because visual language is a communication system in itself – not being able to see the game is like not having access to a particular language. As such, the commentator is like an interpreter, converting visual into spoken language.  And the play-by-play nature of the commentator’s coverage can be thought of as simultaneous interpreting.

When it comes to my own lived experiences as an interpreter, I may be biased, but I find simultaneous interpreting to be even more exciting and engaging than watching one’s favourite sport. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is, the urgency of the challenge to deliver the message AND keep up is highly stimulating.  In simultaneous mode, the brain is trying to dynamically distribute the cognitive efforts or functions of listening, analysis, short-term memory and target speech production (source: Inside the Brain of a Simultaneous Interpreter, Literally). To me, it feels like mental gymnastics.  Or better yet, if consecutive interpreting is like playing catch, then simultaneous interpreting is like juggling.

Watch A Formula for Success in Simultaneous Interpreting – Professor Chikako Tsuruta – Tokyo University of Foreign Studies

[i] Sometimes this happens because those that work with interpreters (professionals and others) lack an understanding of the interpreter’s work and role.