Timing is a key factor in language interpretation. The languages involved and the fluency of the interpreter can create a variance in speed between speaking and interpreting. This can confuse an unaware speaker and make them distrustful of the interpreter. Here are some reasons for the differences, along with ways a speaker can pave the way to an accurate and comfortable interpretation experience.

Lag Time

In simultaneous interpretation, the interpreter translates while the speaker is speaking. In consecutive interpretation, the interpreter waits for the speaker to pause, then translates what they just said. Lag time occurs:

  • If the interpreter is not familiar with the process. They may take longer to interpret than necessary.
  • If the interpreter doesn’t know one of the languages well and struggles to find the right words.
  • If a speaker has made an accidental faux pas that the interpreter has to cover for.
  • If a speaker has made an ambiguous or confusing statement requiring clarification.

Number of Words

Languages from different language groups can differ in ways that require a lot fewer or more words. For example, the Inuit language (Alaska) has a whole slew of words describing different types of snow that English doesn’t have. French has more words describing love, and Russian has more words describing different kinds of relationships.

Here are some situations that require a different number of words:

  • One language is gender specific (e.g. Spanish) and the other is not.
  • There’s no exact match to a word being used, so it has to be described in a phrase (or vice versa).
  • The topic being discussed has no real equivalent in one of the cultures, hence a longer description is needed.

Tips for the Speaker

To get around the natural distrust that accompanies unexpected lags or differences in words, try these few tips:

  • Hire an experienced interpreter or consider hiring two to support each other.
  • Agree with the interpreter/s in advance about when they should interpret: Simultaneously, after a short paragraph, or after you’ve completed the entire thought.
  • Make sure your speech is as clear as possible. Stop to think before speaking spontaneously.
  • Make sure the other party is also clear on the arrangements.

When you’re looking for trustworthy interpreters, be sure to call us. Our interpreters have the experience you need.