Frequently asked questions

Q. What is the difference between 'interpreting' and 'translation'?

A Translation involves written documents, whereas interpreting involves oral speech.

Q. How long does a translation take?

A. You will have to negotiate the deadline with the translator. Depending on his/her workload, average productivity and the kind of document (expect it to take longer if it’s at all technical), it might be as quick as five pages per day. Don’t forget to factor in proofreading (see below).

Q. How much does translation cost?

A. In French-speaking Switzerland, translation pricing is generally billed at a “per word rate”, and in German-speaking Switzerland on a “per line rate” (usually 55-60 characters per line). Rates are negotiated with the translator and will vary according to the difficulty of the text, the urgency of the request and any proofreading that you may require. Many, if not all, translators will supply quotes free of charge.

Q. How do I get a quote?

A. Feel free to contact one of our members if you need a quotation in writing. Bear in mind that it may prove difficult to provide an accurate price and delivery estimate without having seen the document (there are some obvious exceptions, such as birth certificates, diplomas, etc.). Please be prepared to at least send an extract of your text along with the total number of words/lines.

Q: Do I need to have the translation proof-read?

We strongly recommend you do – although it is completely your choice – as translation is done by a human being and therefore is liable to contain clerical mistakes. They say that nobody reads like a translator, but after having read your document over as many as five or ten times, even the most well trained eye can begin to miss the obvious errors. You may be able to arrange a ‘four eyes’ service with your translator, as many have colleagues with whom they work regularly.

Q. What are the different types of interpretation service?

A. Our members will be able to guide you with this choice, and most provide the full range of services. Not all services are charged equally however. The most commonly practiced forms of interpretation are:

  • Simultaneous – your interpreter sits in a booth and translates using headphones and a microphone. Your audience listens through headphones.
  • Consecutive – your interpreter sits close to the speaker who pauses occasionally (e.g., after a minute or two) for a summary translation.
  • Chuchotage (a.k.a whispered interpreting)– Your interpreter sits with close to 2-3 members of the audience (under normal conditions) and whispers the translation simultaneously.
Q. What about equipment?

A. For simultaneous interpreting, equipment is necessary. It can be hired from specialised service providers or may be organised with the help of your interpreter. Be sure to check first, as not all are experienced in this aspect. Be prepared to pay an organiser’s fee on top of the equipment rental costs.

Q. Do I really need so many interpreters?

A. It depends, but given the intense nature of the work, expect to pay for a team of interpreters and not just for one individual (unless it is for an extremely short meeting). For simultaneous interpreting, it is highly unlikely that an interpreter will accept to work alone. For consecutive and chuchotage (see above), it may be possible, but remember that the quality will always suffer as the meeting goes along. You wouldn’t speak for three hours non-stop, and so neither should an interpreter. They have to care for their health and their voices and will likely be working elsewhere both the day before and the day after your meeting.

Q. How much does interpreting cost?

A. In Switzerland and around the world, interpreters charge daily rates for their services. This is because the average meeting with interpretation lasts all day; it is therefore risky for practitioners to accept a shorter meetings paid on an hourly basis, as it would prevent them from accepting a full day’s work.

Q. Is it possible to book for shorter periods?

This is not a common practice. Bear in mind that your interpreters will go to great lengths to understand the purpose of your meeting, to identify their interests, the stakes and the context. They also have to memorize your professional terms (and the equivalent words in the other working languages). All of this work is included in the service and thus the price you will pay. The meeting may only last a few hours, but even the shortest of meetings may require several hours of preparation. Rates are to be negotiated with the interpreter and will vary according to the kind of service requested. You will most likely find little or no difference according to the languages requested. If you require a team of interpreters and/or specialised equipment, you may also face an organiser’s fee. Many, if not all, interpreters will supply quotes free of charge.

Q. What are working languages?

Interpreters work into and out of languages. But not always the same ones. At a meeting with interpreters working languages are the languages spoken by your interpreters. Participants will be able to listen to and speak them and they will translated into all the other working languages. Any other language that may be spoken and will translated be translated is known as a.
passive language.

  1. Your choice of interpretation mode will vary as a function of your meeting set up.
  2. You need to know exactly which languages will be spoken and which need to be translated.
  3. Interpreters generally work in teams. It’s a very tiring exercise. If you don’t believe us, give it a try yourself!