Consecutive translation is a sub-branch of interpreting. As a translation method frequently used in various fields such as conferences and meetings, it can occasionally be confused with simultaneous translation. Simultaneous interpreting is the concurrent interpretation of a speaker; however, the consecutive interpreter translates the speech over the notes they have taken. Another difference is that the simultaneous interpreter translates in a booth, but the consecutive interpreter does not need any equipment other than paper and pencil. While simultaneous interpretation is preferred in official institutions such as the United Nations, consecutive interpreting is frequently used in environments where fewer people are present. Consecutive interpreting requires more time than simultaneous: usually, the interpreter translates after the speaker has said a few sentences, but sometimes it may be necessary to translate an entire speech or divide the speech into short segments in conferences. The longer the speech segment, the more difficult the job of the consecutive interpreter becomes.
Consecutive Translation Note-Taking Techniques
As might be expected, the interpreter can’t keep up with the speaker’s pace while taking notes. In particular, some speakers can speak quite quickly, forgetting that there is an interpreter in the background. In such a situation, the interpreter has even more difficulty keeping up with the speaker’s pace. Contrary to popular belief, slow speech does not make the interpreter’s job easier because consecutive interpreting is an area that requires active listening, and it may be difficult for the interpreter to focus in a snail-paced speech.
An interpreter using consecutive translation note-taking techniques can successfully transfer any speech from the source language to the target language, regardless of the speaker’s pace. Notepads should be used to take notes while translating consecutively. The reason for this is to turn the pages quickly while taking notes and then translate by looking at those notes. This detail may seem insignificant, but an interpreter is racing against time when taking notes on what the speaker has said, and even a second can save the interpreter.
As mentioned earlier, the translator can’t note every word the speaker says, so abbreviations and symbols are often used. Although there are specific symbols in the consecutive translation field, an interpreter should associate symbols and words. For example, a triangle is used when the word change is mentioned, or when there is a cause-and-effect relationship, the arrow sign is used. The translator listens to the speaker actively and transfers the speech to the target language with the help of notes.
It is necessary to use the décalage system while taking notes. The page is divided into four columns with lines: the first column is for the conjunction, the second column is for the subject, the third is for the verb, and the last is for the object. Taking notes in the decalage system helps the translator distinguish sentences and makes it easier to follow the notes.
Consecutive Translation Usage Areas
Consecutive translation usage areas are broad. In fact, consecutive interpreting may be needed in any verbal communication with a language barrier. To give a few examples of usage areas:
- Press conferences
- Q&A sessions
- Employment contracts
- Court statements