Picture taken in a meeting to illustrate the misconceptions about simultaneous interpretation

4 Misconceptions about simultaneous interpretation

People’s backgrounds often cause them to have misconceptions about simultaneous interpretation and its usefulness in multi-national meetings …

And sometimes these preconceptions prevent a correct assessment of the apparent limitations of using interpretation. We want to address a number of those misconceptions here.

The most common misconceptions about simultaneous interpretation

1. We don’t need any simultaneous interpreting because we all speak the same language fluently…

Right? OK, you’re right, we all speak a number of languages.

Wrong! We do not master a foreign language in the same way as a native speaker does, so if you find yourself in a debate with a native speaker, you will never be able to defend your position with the same degree of eloquence and conviction as when you use our own language. For cultural reasons, a lot of people do not want to admit that, which is unfortunate – mostly for themselves.

2. Fewer misunderstandings occur when a single language is used …

Right? Well, yes if you don’t understand at all, you can’t misunderstand can you?

Wrong! This is a classic! Often, using a ‘common language’ just throws up a smokescreen. People may use the right words in properly formed sentences, but in the wrong context or with an inaccurate connotation. They will then be completely misunderstood – without that being obvious to them or to their audience.

3. Simultaneous interpretation is very expensive…

Right? It depends on how you look at it. When only looking at the cost and ignoring the return it might seem expensive.

Wrong! Simultaneous interpretation does not come for free, but it is only a small part of the total budget for your meeting, and is key to getting the most out of your overall investment. If your meeting does not result in creating the desired communication, all of that money will have been spent in vain.

4. Having to juggle microphones and equipment limits the freedom of the speakers …

Right? Absolutely. The use of simultaneous interpreting (or, more generally, a conference system) forces a meeting to adopt a certain level of discipline. Participants have to remain seated in order to be able to speak into a microphone and may not talk over one another.

Wrong! Are these arguments really disadvantages when keeping the goal and desired result of the meeting in mind? We beg to differ…

Food for thought

Hopefully this article has given you some food for thought. Perhaps you will recognize one of the misconceptions about simultaneous interpretation next time you encounter one. And perhaps you will look at it from a different, more accurate angle.

We hope you do 😉

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