What is the difference between consecutive and simultaneous interpretation? Which one is better?

In consecutive interpreting the interpreter listens while a person speaks, the speaker then pauses after a few sentences and the interpreter restates what has just been said in another language to the listener. If something is unclear the interpreter can ask the speaker to repeat or clarify what was meant by his/her statement. No special equipment is necessary for consecutive interpreting.
In simultaneous interpreting the interpreter listens to a person speak in one language while at the same time restating what the speaker is saying into another language. Since the conversion takes place almost instantaneously the interpreter cannot stop the speech to catch up or to ask questions. Simultaneous interpreting is a very difficult and specialized skill, especially in Japanese, that requires intense concentration, mental acuity, and years of experience to master. For this reason simultaneous interpreting is only done in teams of 2-3 interpreters who take turns every 20-30 minutes. Simultaneous interpreting often requires special sound equipment, which can be rented through JCC.
Which form is better really depends on the occasion. Generally speaking, consecutive interpreting is better suited for regular business meetings, small presentations, court hearings, depositions, or any situation where accuracy is the utmost priority. Simultaneous interpreting is better for large conferences where economy of time is a higher priority and/or you don't want the flow of events disrupted. Consecutive interpreting is much more commonly used than simultaneous. For more information on JCC's interpreting services and rates for both types of interpretation, please go to the interpretation page If you need further information on consecutive versus simultaneous interpreting, and which type may be the best for your project, just give us a call at: (212) 759-2033.

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What are your hourly rates?

There are very few Japanese-English interpreters who provide their services on an hourly basis. Most interpreters' rates are based on a daily (up to 8 hours) charge. Some interpreters will also take jobs on a half-day basis (up to 4 consecutive hours). Please see the interpretation page for more information on our interpreting rate structure.

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Why are interpreters so expensive? All they do is talk...

Interpreting is a specialized skill requiring intense concentration, mental flexibility, and a professional sense of responsibility, combined with a vast vocabulary and fluency in at least two languages. Just being able to speak in two languages does not make you an interpreter, as it is about much more than talking. As an interpreter, you are expected to be able to walk in to a situation cold, understand what people are talking about with all of its nuances, and restate it in another language accurately and thoroughly. There just aren't very many people who can do this. What you are getting when you hire an interpreter from JCC is a professional in facilitating communication between two groups of people divided by a linguistic and cultural barrier.

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Do you have specialists in my field?

Yes and no. With a few exceptions, interpreting professionals rarely work exclusively in one specialized field. They usually have several areas in which they are most experienced and comfortable. For example, an interpreter may be very knowledgeable about electric power generation because he/she has either worked for a power company at some time in his/her life, or he/she has handled a lot of power generation related interpreting assignments. So, yes, we have people who have a very strong finance background, people who are very knowledgeable about science and chemistry, and people who have handled many different kinds of assignments extremely well with just a little advance preparation. But, no, people who have written doctoral dissertations on fixed income assets or metallurgy do not generally choose interpreting as their profession. That is why coming to an experienced agency like ours is a smart move -- we know what our interpreters are capable of, and can assign the best suited one available to your project.
It is important to remember, however, that interpreters are language professionals first. So the interpreter who handles a lot of work in electric power generation is still an outsider to the electric industry. His/her depth of knowledge or command of highly specialized jargon will not fully match that of someone who works in the industry every day, nor could it be expected to. That is why we as an agency ask detailed questions regarding any assignment, such as the type of event and the topics which may be covered, and request study material for our interpreters to help them prepare as fully as possible for their job.

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What kind of study material do I need to provide?

Anything having to do directly with the assignment, the industries or companies involved, the fields to be discussed, and especially any documents to be used or referred to in the event itself. The basic rule of thumb is: the more study material the better, and the more the material provided relates to the event to be interpreted the better. Remember, this material will aid the interpreter in carrying out his/her assignment and in ensuring that the event runs more smoothly, and will therefore increase the value you'll receive from him or her. If confidentiality is a problem we, and our interpreters, are more than willing to sign non-disclosure agreements.

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I'm having a business meeting with someone from Japan who can speak some English, can I just get a B-class interpreter or even a bilingual college student to give him some help when he needs it?

We can, of course, find a less expensive interpreter with less experience and/or lesser abilities. But honestly, I wouldn't recommend it, and I think that you'd be wasting your money. In order for the interpreter to add real value to your meeting he/she really should be a professional communication facilitator in addition to having a a top-level command of Japanese and English. If your client speaks very little English, then any interpreter would be better than none at all. But if he does speak pretty good English, then an interpreter who is less than professional grade would probably be only an annoyance to him, and will just make you look cheap. Lower grade interpreters have their place in more casual settings as tour guides or helping with shopping, hotels, or restaurants. But your business meeting is probably not one of those places.

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What can I do to ensure I get the best interpreter available for my assignment?

Give us some lead time. I can't stress this strongly enough. We have only very rarely had a situation where we could just not staff a job, but it can happen. There are only a hundred to two hundred people in all of North America who can do this job, and they are all in very high demand. Many of the very best interpreters could work pretty much every day of the year, all over the country, if they wanted to. So, the sooner you call us to begin making the arrangements for your job, the wider the range of available local interpreters we are likely to have available for you. Now this doesn't mean that you shouldn't call us anytime you have a need for Japanese language services. It just means that the closer to the time of the actual assignment you call, the more likely it is we will have to hunt for someone to assign to your job, and also the more likely it is that you'll have to fly them in from another city. So calling earlier can save you both worries and money.

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My interpreter kept stopping me while I was speaking, asked me questions, and made me repeat things. Is this normal?

Yes, and you shouldn't worry about it. Your interpreter was being professionally responsible. Rather than ignoring what he/she didn't understand, or what may not have been fully clear, he/she took the steps necessary to make sure that your message was delivered accurately across the linguistic gulf to your audience. This is exactly what interpreters are trained to do. Remember, when you are using a consecutive interpreter you should pause occasionally to make sure you give the interpreter time to deliver your message.

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How often do I need to pause to give the interpreter time to deliver my message?

This depends somewhat on the situation, and how thoroughly you want your message delivered. A good consecutive interpreter can usually process your message about a paragraph at a time, but if you want your message translated as completely as possible then I would recommend pausing after one or two sentences. However, if you just need the gist of your message summarized then you can probably go on for 3 or 4 minutes.
The best thing you can do is to leave a little time at the beginning of your event to talk with your interpreter and decide on how best to handle the communication flow for your situation, and to listen to any suggestions the interpreter might have to make it all flow more smoothly. After all, this is his/her area of expertise.

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What else do I need to know to use the interpreter's services more effectively?

Interpreters are not machines, they are human and need solid preparation time and material, rest, and respect in order to perform at their best. The good news here is that they are much better than machines because as humans they can pick up subtleties and nuances, detect any potentially troublesome gaps in communication, and make adjustments for them. If you need and further help, or have any further questions, please refer to our interpretation page, e-mail us at :, or call us at (212) 759-2033.

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