Do consecutive and simultaneous interpreting require the same skillset? The answer is, not exactly. To be properly executed, both of these modes of interpretation need years of training from already fluent and bilingual students. Bilingualism is not enough to perform consecutive or simultaneous interpreting. Interpreters need to be able to articulate a multiplicity of ideas in at least two languages.
They also need to understand the cultural context of these languages. They have to be up to date with any references that could be made, be that pop-culture, historical, political, etc. Interpreters must have strong short-term and long-term memories so they can remember what they are translating. Also, both consecutive and simultaneous interpreters need to be skilled multi-taskers. They have to be able to listen to a language, process what is being said, and then translate the language. The difference in their skillsets comes from how this translation is produced.
Consecutive interpreters rely on both their long-term and short-term memory to produce their translation. As they deliver this translation after the speaker pauses or finishes the statement, consecutive interpreters take vigorous notes while they listen. Rather than simply re-writing the speech, a consecutive interpreter’s shorthand notes symbolize the speaker’s flow.
The interpreters use visualization to connect these symbols, which often represent common ideas, abbreviations, and verb tenses. At this point in the translation process, the consecutive interpreter multi-tasks by listening and using his/her short-term memory to quickly code the speech in their shorthand. When the speaker finishes or pauses, the interpreter reads his/her notes to remember the flow of concepts. Then using their long-term memory to recall the speech, the interpreter translates into the target language.
As simultaneous interpreters produce their translation as the speech is delivered, they use a completely different process. Simultaneous interpreters speak while they listen. This is an incredibly difficult skill to master and it takes years of practice. Simultaneous interpreters begin to practice this skill by simply repeating what speakers say without translating it. Then, they begin to paraphrase the speech in real-time and eventually switch to paraphrasing the speech in the second language.
Unlike consecutive interpreting, the language reformation process in simultaneous interpreting occurs as the interpreter listens. Thus, simultaneous interpreters rely strongly on their short-term memories. They have to process what they hear and translate it at the same time. This process is extremely difficult as the interpreters are under heavy time pressure and cannot let the original language influence their target language.
Delivering both of these modes of interpretation takes great skill and each type of interpretation has its advantages. Simultaneous interpreting allows the audience the ability to comprehend a speech in another language as it is delivered. The speed of this translation gives the interpreter less time to formulate the translation. Consecutive interpreters, on the other hand, have more time to create their translation and can introduce more stylistic elements.