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Why we recommend using two simultaneous interpreters for international market research


When conducting qualitative market research we always encourage our clients to come and watch the sessions as it helps give them get a really deep understanding of the findings and insights, and become really engaged with the process, so that they can take our proposed actions forward.

Often, when conducting research for international clients or global studies, we have to overcome language barriers, so we use simultaneous translators to interpret what is said by participants in the depth interview or focus groups. When proposing this methodology we always recommend using two interpreters.

Simultaneous interpreting is recognised as being one of the most exhausting things you can do with the human brain – hence a simultaneous interpreter requires a break from work every ‘nineteen minutes and forty seconds’.

The difficulty is not only the high-speed language transfer, but also that the sound of your own voice diminishes your ability to hear what the other person is saying. That’s why we take turns in conversation, and only speak over someone else when we really do not want to hear what they have to say. A simultaneous interpreter must learn to overrule the natural tendency not to listen when talking, and not to talk when listening.

Simultaneous interpreting only exists because some very adept people can train themselves to do such an unnatural thing.

Try it yourself:

Switch on a TV news broadcast and repeat at your normal speaking volume exactly what the newscaster says. If you can keep that up without losing a sentence for ten minutes, then maybe you too could be a simultaneous interpreter – providing you know another language extremely well too!

Millions of people know two languages well enough to be interpreters, but only a small proportion of them can manage the exhausting trick of dividing attention between what you are saying and what you are hearing – without missing a word.

This is why we recommended the use of two linguists - so that everything is captured without causing disruption to the groups and the client is satisfied with the results of the project, they are paying for.

However, and the only other option, if the client is unwilling to use a second interpreter - and it is extremely unusual for a single interpreter to provide simultaneous interpreting with no facilities for this type of interpreting - the interpreter provided will require reasonable breaks during the sessions, there will need to be allowances made for pauses between the information provided, and acceptance that the client will receive more of a ‘guidance’ on the direction the groups are going rather than interpretation of everything that is said by the participants and moderator.

The danger with this approach is that the client will miss out on the detail and nuances that they expect to receive from a group discussion.

TED Ed published a fascinating video about how simultaneous translation works which you can watch here:

Link: (https://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-interpreters-juggle-two-languages-at-once-ewandro-magalhaes)

For more information about how we can help please do not hesitate to contact us!


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Email:  enquiries@ampersandresearch.com  

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