Whispered interpreting

Professional interpreters who whisper into the ear of the guest (or guests) as they translate speech into a different language without any technological support use the chuchotage interpreting technique (from the French “chuchoter”, meaning to whisper).

In whispered interpreting, there is a fluid and continuous transfer of the message between two parties (the speaker and the listeners, usually a maximum of one or two). Specialised interpreters follow the exchange, without losing track of the conversation, and translate in real time and quietly to avoid disturbing the other participants.

During the translation process, interpreters might prolong the time (décalage) between the speaker’s words and the translation into the other language, in order to take in the overall meaning and achieve a more complete and precise result.

The chuchotage interpreter as a point of reference

The interpreter will be sat next to the foreign guests (which is why the number of people listening to the translation needs to be one or two at most) and will assist them throughout every stage of the event, becoming a point of reference for participants to understand the concepts. The interpreter’s tone of voice is always clear and level: the interpreter knows not to disturb the person talking in the original language while ensuring that the translation is heard by the people listening.

Therefore, greater effort than normal is required of professionals providing chuchotage services, partly due to the element of disturbance caused by background noise. Linguists are also the “means” through which the listener can engage in dialogue with others, be understood and intervene, if necessary. In this case, there is a shift in technique from chuchotage to consecutive interpreting.

What are the benefits of chuchotage?

Whispered interpreting is a translation method with an enormous economic edge over the others, since it requires no equipment or supporting technologies, such as the interpreting booth. Compared to simultaneous translation, the costs are much lower. On the other hand, sessions are limited to under two hours to allow for the interpreter’s best work (otherwise, two interpreters who take turns must be considered).

Suitable events for whispered interpreting

Chuchotage translation is often requested for television or radio programmes, live streaming, political debates, institutional speeches such as in parliament or official visits overseas, public or private events, sports events from football and tennis to the Olympics and for many occasions with one or two foreign guests.

Bidule and chuchotage: the perfect union

If you wish to improve the understanding of the chuchotage translation, overcoming any possible obstacle between the words spoken and the act of listening, we recommend a bidule system.