FAQ: Korean-English Interpretation Services

Where are your interpreters located?

In the U.S., we currently have local interpreters based in New York, New Jersey, the Washington D.C. and Los Angeles areas, and several other major cities. In Korea, most of our top-level interpreters are based in Seoul. Depending on the requirements, budget, and availability, our Korean interpreters can also travel to other areas in the U.S., and to most areas in Korea.

What is the difference between consecutive and simultaneous interpretation?

In consecutive interpretation, the interpreter listens while a person speaks, with the speaker pausing every few sentences; the interpreter then translates what has just been said in Korean for the listener(s). If something is unclear the interpreter can ask the speaker to repeat or clarify his/her statement. In general no special equipment is necessary for consecutive interpretation.

In simultaneous interpretation, the interpreter listens to a person speak in one language while at the same time translating what the speaker is saying into another language.  The interpreter is usually isolated inside a booth and cannot ask the speaker to pause or ask questions. Simultaneous interpretation is a very difficult and specialized skill that requires intense concentration and mental acuity, and takes many years of experience to master. This is especially the case for simultaneous interpretation between English and Korean, whose syntactic structures that are the reverse of one another. Simultaneous interpretation performed by a team of 2 or more interpreters who take turns every 15-20 minutes. Simultaneous interpretation almost always requires special sound equipment, which can be rented through Korean Translation Group in most cities in Korea.

Generally speaking, consecutive interpretation is better suited for regular business meetings, interviews, small presentations, court hearings, depositions, or any situation where accuracy is the utmost priority. Simultaneous interpreting is usually preferred for large conferences where the flow of events cannot be interrupted. For more information, please contact us.

What are your hourly rates?

Hourly rates are usually the basis for Korean-English interpretation fees, but there are several other factors such as scheduling limitations and travel. Except for telephone/Zoom interpretation, minimum rates for blocks of time (2 hours, 3 hours, half day, or daily rates) apply depending on the interpreter class and logistical considerations. In certain areas (including New York), some interpreters can be assigned on a 2 or 3-hour minimum basis. Please see the interpretation rates page for more information on our interpretation rates schedule.

Why are Korean-English interpreters so expensive? 

Korean-English interpretation is a highly specialized skill requiring intense concentration, mental alacrity, and a professional sense of responsibility, in addition of course to a vast vocabulary and fluency in the two languages, which are often considered one of the most difficult language pairs for interpreters and translators. Just being “bilingual” in the two languages does not make you a professional Korean interpreter. A professional Korean interpreter is expected to be able to walk into a situation cold, understand what is being said with all of its nuances, and restate it in Korean or English accurately and thoroughly. The truth is that only a small number of extremely talented individuals can perform this task at a high level of competence. And our company’s interpretation team is made up of such extremely talented individuals.

Do you have specialists in my field?

With a few exceptions, professional interpreters rarely work exclusively in one specialized field. After all, doctors, bankers, or people who have written doctoral dissertations on fixed income assets or metallurgy do not generally choose interpreting as their profession.

That said, our top-level Korean interpreters all have several technical areas in which they are most experienced, including engineering, finance, law, and healthcare. For example, several of our interpreters are very knowledgeable about medical devices because they have either worked for a medical device manufacturer or importer or have handled numerous medical device-related interpretation assignments in their careers. We have interpreters who have strong finance backgrounds, interpreters who have worked in engineering, and interpreters with considerable knowledge and experience in the natural sciences. As an experienced single-language agency specializing in Korean, we know what our people are capable of, and can assign the best suited professional Korean interpreter available for your needs.

It is important to remember, however, that interpreters are language professionals first and foremost. Therefore, the interpreter who handles a lot of work related to medical devices is still an outsider to the current medical devices industry. His/her depth of knowledge or command of highly specialized jargon may not fully match that of someone who works in the industry every day, nor should this be expected. So please bear with us when we ask detailed questions regarding an assignment and request advance materials for our interpreters. This is to ensure that we can identify the best interpreter for the assignment and to help the interpreter prepare as fully as possible.

I have a business meeting with someone from Korea who can speak some English. Maybe I can use a less experienced (= less expensive) interpreter or perhaps a bilingual student just to “fill in the gaps” if needed?

Our foremost objective is to provide interpretation services that our clients are completely satisfied with. We can, of course, assign a less expensive interpreter with less experience and/or lower-level skills. But we do not recommend this option for business meetings, as this can result in your wasting money and, more importantly, possibly wasting a business opportunity.

In order for an interpreter to add real value to a business meeting, the interpreter really should be an experienced facilitator of communication in addition to having solid command of both Korean and English. If the other party speaks very little English, then almost any interpreter would be better than none at all. However, if he or she does speak relatively good English (if only in their own mind), then an interpreter who is less skilled than a professional may cause some annoyance to the other party (whether or not it’s justified), and you may even come out looking cheap in the other party’s eyes.

Less experienced interpreters can be vital in bridging communication gaps in casual situations such as guided sightseeing tours or helping with shopping, hotels, or restaurants. Even low-tech trade shows can benefit from using low-level interpreters at relatively low fees. But an important business meeting is probably not one of those situations.

In consecutive interpretation, how often does the speaker need to pause to give the interpreter time to translate?

This depends on the situation, and on whether or not you want your message conveyed word-for-word. A good consecutive interpreter can usually process your message about a short paragraph at a time, but if you want your message translated as literally as possible, then pausing after a couple of sentences is recommended. However, if you just need the gist of your message summarized, then you can probably go on for a couple of minutes. This can save time, but keep in mind that some nuances may be lost. The good news is that professional interpreters are very good at picking up subtleties and nuances and detecting any potential gaps in communication, making adjustments as needed.

We also recommend that you set aside a little time at the beginning of your event to speak with your interpreter regarding how best to handle the communication flow for the situation, and to listen to any suggestions the interpreter might have to ensure that the proceedings flow more smoothly. 

Anything else to keep in mind?

Interpreters are not machines, but believe it or not we often see clients neglect this simple fact. Like all professionals, interpreters need sufficient preparation time, regular breaks, and moral support. Above all, interpreters need to be treated with respect in order to perform at their best. We ask clients to always keep this in mind when working with interpreters. After all, human communication is what gets important things done in the end.

Questions about our Korean language services?

Please reach out to us by phone or email with any questions or concerns.

I so appreciate your help in enabling me to advance my work. My presentations would never have been so meaningful to the participants had I not had your translations to give them.

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Barbara U. Jones, Ph.D.