The Beginner’s Guide to Conference Interpreting – Tools, Tips, and Tricks

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Have you ever dreamed of becoming a professional conference interpreter? Working with people from all around the world and interpreting conversations between different languages can be an incredibly rewarding experience. But it’s also an incredibly difficult one, and a lot of people don’t know where to start.

In this article, we’ll provide a beginner’s guide to conference interpreting. We’ll go over the tools, tips, and tricks you’ll need to know to become a successful conference interpreter. We’ll cover topics like the different types of interpreting, how to prepare for an interpreting assignment, and how to make the most of your interpreting experience.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of the skills and knowledge you need to become a successful conference interpreter. So, let’s get started!

What is Conference Interpreting?

Conference interpreting is the practice of translating spoken language between two or more different languages via a live interpreter. This type of interpreting typically happens at international conferences, government events, and other large gatherings.

Unlike other types of interpreting, conference interpreting happens in real time and is spoken out loud. This means that the interpreter needs to be able to listen to the original speaker and then speak the same thing out loud in another language. Conference interpreting can happen in any language combination with any type of target audience (government officials, medical professionals, business executives, etc.).

Conference interpreters work in pairs so that one person is listening to the original speaker and the other person is speaking the same language to the audience. This way, the listeners can hear the original speaker in their own language and the audience can hear the interpreter in their language.

Different Types of Conference Interpreting

There are three different types of conference interpreting that interpreters can specialize in—simultaneous, consecutive, and sight-translation. While all of these types of interpreting use the same interpreting skills, they have a few key differences.

Simultaneous Conference Interpreting

Simultaneous conference interpreting is a one-on-one exchange between an interpreter and one speaker. The interpreter listens to the original speaker and then speaks the same thing to a different audience member. Simultaneous interpreting is typically done in a small group setting (lecture, panel discussion, etc.) or at a conference where the interpreter is sitting in the audience.

Consecutive Conference Interpreting

Consecutive conference interpreting is a one-on-many exchange where an interpreter listens to the original speaker and then waits until that speaker stops before speaking the same thing to the audience. This is typically done in large groups where the speaker can’t be interrupted and the interpreter will wait until the speaking is done before speaking the same thing in the other language.

Conference Sight-Translation

Conference sight-translation is used when there is no time to prepare for a planned event (a last-minute change in schedule, sudden death in the government, etc.) and a bilingual person isn’t available. In this scenario, an interpreter will listen to the original speaker and then immediately speak the same thing in another language without having any time to prepare or think about the translation.

Preparing for an Interpreting Assignment

Before you accept an interpreting assignment, it’s important to make sure that you have the right skills and knowledge to do the job. You should be confident in your ability to translate between the two languages, and you should have the necessary background knowledge to accurately communicate the message. If you lack these skills and abilities, you won’t be able to provide high-quality interpreting services and you’ll put yourself at risk of failing an evaluation.

Conference interpreting is a very specialized skill, and there aren’t many places that offer interpreting training. So, if you want to become a conference interpreter, you’ll need to take matters into your own hands and start learning the skills needed to succeed. Luckily, there are tons of online resources to help you learn how to become a conference interpreter. You can start by reading blog posts like this one, taking online courses, and reading books written by experienced interpreters.

Conference interpreting is a very complex skill that requires you to be proficient in two languages as well as knowledgeable about the subject matter. Here are a few things you can do to prepare for an interpreting assignment:

Interpreting Techniques

Before your interpreting assignment begins, you should spend a few minutes preparing so you can get into the right mindset. This will help you focus on the assignment and make sure that you don’t miss any important details.

A few things you can do to prepare include:


Take a few deep breaths to help clear your mind and relax your body. You don’t want to go into an interpreting assignment feeling anxious and stressed out.


Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the situation. What can you see and hear? What is the atmosphere like? Visualizing the scene in your head will help you focus on the assignment.

Gather your thoughts

Take a few more moments to review the talking points, key words, and topics of conversation listed on the assignment sheet. Jot down notes if you need to, but make sure you don’t write a full translation.

How to Improve Your Interpreting Skills

Becoming a professional conference interpreter is a long and challenging journey. You’ll need to build up your skills, gain experience, and earn a reputation for excellence. This can take years, and it’s important to start preparing for your future career early.

Before you attempt to get paid work as an interpreter, you should practice interpreting skills with friends and family members in a safe environment. You can also find online interpreting communities and forums where you can practice interpreting in a safe environment. However, you shouldn’t post your interpretations or try to find paid work until you’re confident in your skills and have a significant amount of experience.

Conference interpreting is a very specialized skill, and you shouldn’t expect to become an interpreter overnight. It takes years of practice and effort to become a successful interpreter. Here are a few ways you can improve your skills:

Making the Most of Your Interpreting Experience

The best way to make the most of your interpreting experience is to prepare for assignments and set yourself up for success. Before you accept an interpreting assignment, make sure that you’re comfortable with the languages and topics. If you’re not, ask questions until you understand everything fully. You don’t want to miss a key piece of information and mess up an important event or meeting because you weren’t prepared.

To make the most of your interpreting experience, you should:

Stay informed

Stay up to date on current events and news stories in the two languages you interpret. This will help you keep informed and prepared for assignments.

Stay focused

Stay focused and don’t let outside distractions affect your interpreting skills.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Make sure you eat healthy and exercise regularly so you have energy to last through the day.


Conference interpreting is a very challenging and complex skill. It’s important to practice interpreting skills in a safe environment and get plenty of experience before attempting to find paid work. Make sure you’re staying up to date with current events and are focused on the assignment. Make the most of your interpreting experience by staying informed, focused, and healthy. With the right skills, knowledge, and tools, you can become a successful conference interpreter. So, start learning the skills needed to succeed and make sure you’re ready for your first interpreting assignment.

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