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Whispered Interpreting


Interpreting takes on different forms depending on the needs of the setting and situation. We’re now going to take a closer look at a mode of interpretation used widely in the media: whispered interpreting or chuchotage.

What is whispered interpreting?

Whispered interpretingThe French term chuchotage, which means whispering, is often used to refer to whispered interpreting. Chuchotage is the name for the interpreting technique where the interpreter translates simultaneously in a low voice for a very small group of attendees, usually one or two people. The interpreter, a native speaker of the language, “whispers” the speaker’s message in the listener’s ear without interrupting the communication.

In other words, whispered interpreting or chuchotage is a type of interpretation that consists of rendering what is being said in language A into language B in real time, in the client’s ear, or in a low voice (for a maximum of two to three people). To do this, the interpreter sits or stands next to the client, without interfering in the meeting. In this case, the listener’s native language is usually different from that of the other attendees. Normally, whispered interpreting requires no technical equipment.

When is it used?

ChuchotageYou know those people who sit next to the presidents at major political meetings? Well, those people are whispering interpreters. There are often people at conferences and meetings who speak different languages, and, since they are not the majority, they have their own interpreter to simultaneously translate all the information for them. This way, the interpreter doesn’t interrupt the flow of the exchange or repeat in another language, nut rather whispers the interpretation to their client or small group of attendees. Additionally, the nature of whispered interpreting favours privacy, an added value in certain negotiations.

Whispered interpreting is ideal for short events, such as small meetings, conferences, site visits, trade fairs, press conferences, interviews, small corporate events and product demonstrations.

What are its key characteristics?

One of the key characteristics of whispered interpreting is the degree of difficulty it entails. The interpreter must successfully tell the recipient everything that is being said without interfering with the main course of communication.

This type of interpretation is typically used in meetings where the number of people who speak another language is very low.

In most cases, the meeting is interpreted for one or two participants. If small groups with more people are involved, other types of interpretation,  such as consecutive interpreting or liaison interpreting, are often preferred.

Whispered interpreting challenges

The ergonomic position that the interpreter has to maintain, in some cases, in order to do their job, and the pronunciation difficulties that speaking in whispers entails are two of the main challenges associated with whispered interpreting.

The client requesting this type of interpretation should be aware that it requires a physical proximity to the interpreter that may not be comfortable for everyone, and that active listening is needed to make up for the possible mispronunciations that, as mentioned, may result from the need to whisper.

Sometimes the event does not go as planned, and the participants or attendees start parallel conversations, or the room is not well insulated, and distracting outside noise can be heard. The surrounding noise makes the interpreter’s work more difficult.

Interpreter skills

The skills that a whispering interpreter or chuchotage interpreter must have are the same for every type of interpreting:

  • Excellent knowledge of the two languages of the interpretation, as well as fluency in both languages. The interpreter must have comprehensive knowledge of the language they interpret, and in-depth knowledge of the overall culture, due to the wide variety of topics in the interpretations.
  • Ability to think quickly and improvise. The interpreter must be mentally sharp and be ready to improvise.
  • Impartiality. The interpreter must stay out of the interaction between the parties, regardless of the subject of the event.
  • The interpreter must know and master oral expression techniques (diction, intonation, elocution, voice projection, etc.) and have a good voice, as well as public speaking skills.
  • Ability to analyse and summarise. The interpreter must develop the ability to quickly analyse what the speaker says in order to capture the essential details and summarise the general concepts in their translation, transmitting the information to the audience at the event as clearly and simply as possible.
  • Memory and concentration to process the information, retain it, do the translation and whisper it to the person in question.

All our interpreters are specialised university graduates with years of experience in their specific field or industry. If you need whispered interpreting services for small meetings at your company, conferences, site visits, trade fairs, press conferences, interviews or small product demonstrations, you’ll find the most qualified and professional interpreters at Acantho.

Not sure what type of interpretation you need, or you don’t know which interpreting service is right for you? Please call us on (+34) 976 910 302, or send an email to, and we will be more than happy to assist you.

This post is also available in Español.