Whispered interpreting or chuchotage

Whispered interpreting is a variant of simultaneous interpreting. The term chuchotage (from the French verb chuchoter, to whisper) is also commonly used for whispered interpreting.


In whispered interpreting, the interpreter does not actually whisper, because whispering is very straining on the voice, but the interpreter speaks very softly. But this is also stressful for the interpreter's voice. This limits the length of time an interpreter can be used for whispered interpreting.


A distinction is made between whispered interpreting with and without technical aids. Technical assistance usually means a personal guidance system (also called a whispering system).


Whispered interpreting without a tour guide system

For one or two participants, whispered interpreting can be done without technical aids. The interpreter sits behind one or in the middle of the two listeners and whispers the interpretation. The advantage of whispered interpreting is the comparatively low cost, as no interpreting equipment is required.


However, whispered interpreting also has disadvantages:


  • Since the whispered interpreter has to sit very close to the listener, this can be perceived as uncomfortable over a longer period of time by both the listener or listeners and the interpreter ("getting up close and personal").
  • Often, at larger events, other participants also feel disturbed by whispered interpreting, as they do not realise that interpreting is taking place. Whispered interpreting is then often misunderstood as "chatter" by inconsiderate participants.
  • Whispered interpreting is not only very strenuous for the interpreter because of the vocal strain. The interpreter must also constantly "listen" to his or her own voice in order to understand the original sound.
  • Maintaining a minimum distance, as was required during the pandemic, is not possible.


The most common field of application of whispered interpreting is court interpreting. In this case, everything said is whispered simultaneously to the foreign-language participant in the proceedings. The foreign-language participant's speech is then interpreted back consecutively.


Occasionally, whispered simultaneous interpreting is also used at international events if only one or two foreign-language participants are to follow an event. We recommend using a soundproof interpreting booth whenever possible.


Whispered interpreting with a personal guidance system

Whispered interpreting is possible for more than 2 participants (e.g. 10 to 20 participants) with the help of a portable whispering system. A whispering system consists of a microphone for the interpreters and headphones with receivers for the listeners. The transmission of the interpretation is wireless.


In noisy environments such as factories, assembly halls or construction sites, the people guidance system can be supplemented with a microphone for the speaker and headphones/receivers for the interpreter(s). In this way, the interpreters can also understand the original sound acoustically well.


One advantage of the whispered interpreting system is that the interpreter does not have to interpret directly in front of the participants. He or she can move freely around the room. This allows the interpreter to choose a position in the room from which he or she can hear well and see the speaker and any presentations that may be shown.


Areas of application for whispered interpreting are guided tours, training courses or interpreting for small groups at international events (for the latter we strongly recommend an interpreting booth).


At international events there is always the problem that the other participants are disturbed by whispered interpretation. It does not matter whether a people guidance system is used or not. For international events, the interpreting booth is therefore the optimal choice.


Do you need whispered interpreters for an international event or do you have questions about interpreting or interpreting technology? Please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!


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