Simultaneous translation is a must for any negotiations with foreign partners. This type of translation is used at meetings, conferences and forums. When you see people with headphones like in the video below, be sure: there are interpreters working for them somewhere around the place. Simultaneous interpreting is a stressful job and a constant adventure for the interpreter. But it is thanks to the interpreter’s hard work that the listener can clearly understand the message and save time.

How to organize translation?

Traditionally the term ‘translation’ means written translation. Voice or oral translation is called interpreting. And interpreting comes in a number of types. If you are going to have a round table meeting, you can choose from whisper (chuchotage), consecutive and simultaneous interpretation. Whisper translation means that the interpreter will sit next to the participant who doesn’t speak the official meeting language and whisper into his/her ear. Consecutive interpretation means that the speaker will have to stop every 15 seconds for the translator to interpret his words. Simultaneous means that the meeting is not stopped at all, and the translator talks over the speaker using special devices. If your meeting format is different, it’s better to ask us for advice.

Can everyone in the room hear whisper translation?

If the room is around 200 square feet (20 m2), yes. The bigger your meeting room, the less likely you will hear the interpreter. However, those sitting close to the interpreter might be distracted by translation.  This sometimes irritates speakers and presenters. Whisper translation works fine for lectures and parties. It’s important to inform the meeting participants that whisper translation is provided for some guests. Then the audience won’t be that distracted by the interpreter’s buzz.

We will have a three-hour meeting and we’d like to order consecutive interpretation. Why not?

This is certainly possible. But if you go for consecutive it will turn into a four- or five-hour meeting. If you only have 3 hours, you will fail to ask all the questions you planned or show all the slides you intended to. Be prepared to add 30 seconds of translation to every 30 seconds of your speech. You will spend twice as much time as planned. Such translation, however, is often done on the stage or during short official meetings.

Do we need equipment for simultaneous interpretation?

For whisper translation you don’t. For medium-sized meetings one can use radio transmitters and receivers. And large meetings or conferences require booths and interpreting systems. All types of meetings can be serviced with Wi-Fi mobile apps (that have their advantages and disadvantages).

Interpreter Booths and Systems

Interpreter booths can be full-sized and portable. Full-sized booths are larger, better and more expensive. Portable ones are light-weight, small and cheap. No one in the room can hear the interpreter from the full-sized booth. Interpreters can only be heard via infra-red receivers. In case of a portable booth, interpreter’s voice can be heard by those sitting close to the booth and (of course) via infra-red receivers. Any booth requires an infra-red system and a corresponding number of receivers. Such equipment guarantees ideal sound quality.

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Audio Guides

The number of audio guides must be equal to the number of meeting participants. Each participant uses his/her receiver with a headphone. Interpreter speaks into his/her own mike connected to the transmitter. Sound quality for the listeners will be high, but most accompanying sounds will also be there.

Can I order simultaneous without a booth?

Yes, you can. Then you’ll need audio guides. Small receivers are easy to use when moving around the office, examining production sites or organizing excursions. Such equipment is often used by tourist guides.

Why tell the interpreter about the purpose of the meeting?

Even most experienced translators always prepare for meetings. We recommend our customers brief the interpreter on the upcoming event. It is important for the interpreter to know as much as possible about the topic and associated problems, learn your professional slang and even inmate jokes. Interpreter should also be provided with the figures discussed, participants’ names and places of doing business. Such information is often confidential. That is why interpreters always sign Confidentiality Agreements in advance. Lack of information about the meeting and its topic leads to mistakes and incongruities in translation.

Could our interpreter accompany us to the opera?

Sure. Of course, if the interpreter has nothing against it. He/she will also translate during the intermission (only) and get standard hourly wages.

We worked for 11 hours running, but out interpreter got tired in the third hour. How come?

Simultaneous interpreting is an extremely stressful kind of intellectual activity. For an office worker 8-hour working day is a norm. For a simultaneous interpreter 5 hours would be maximum workload. His/her active time will also depend on the topic complexity and ‘political heat’ of the meeting. During long meetings interpreters change every 20 minutes. If the interpreter works on his/her own, a break is required at least every 1.5 hours.