Choosing the RIGHT Vendor for Simultaneous Interpretation Equipment

As a meeting planner, choosing the right vendors can be a daunting task, especially for a service that is not frequently required. Simultaneous interpretation may well be uncharted waters for most but if you are handling meetings for large corporations, associations or international organizations, you will at times be requested to provide this service. You can be ready to respond right now by learning the proper terminology, where to find equipment providers and the questions vendors will ask.

What is Simultaneous Interpretation?

Simultaneous interpretation is facilitating the communication of speech from one language to another in real-time allowing presentations or conversations to flow naturally, without delay. The interpreted speech is usually heard by using a wireless receiver with earphone. This service might also be called conference interpretation, language interpretation or even simultaneous translation.

Interpreting is a very complex task. You might be surprised at how demanding it is, in terms of interpreter qualifications and the quantity of equipment needed to deliver the service. But the truth is that accurate communication is the most important aspect of any meeting and quality interpretation will ensure its success.

What type of equipment is required for Simultaneous Interpretation?

The parameters of the meeting will determine the type of equipment required for providing simultaneous interpretation. For the majority of conferences, the following equipment will be required:

Interpretation Booths
Interpretation booths are used to provide sound insulation for the interpreters. They allow them to work in a quiet environment while blocking their voice from distracting the meeting attendees. Inside the booths, the interpreters will receive an audio feed of the floor Meeting Room Equipment channel (the current speaker in the meeting) and simultaneously interpret into another language.

Looking for an equipment provider, you should enquire whether their portable booths meet the ISO-4043 standards or not. If they have the certificate, it is safe for you to assume that the booths will provide proper sound insulation and an adequate working environment for interpreters in terms of comfort, ventilation, lighting and visibility. Detailed information can be found on the at AIIC page for “Mobile booths for simultaneous interpretation”. Meeting ISO-4043 standards will be an absolute pre-requirement when organizing an event for a prominent international organization.

Table-top booths are generally not recommended but are sometimes used in meeting facilities with limited space where a standard interpretation booth is too large. Table-top interpretation booths provide minimal sound insulation and do not meet ISO requirements.

Interpreter Consoles
The console is the central working station for interpreters allowing them to receive, transmit and control the audio. Two interpreters in a same language booth might share one console but individual microphones are always preferred. With the advancements of digital technology interpreter consoles now have advanced features such as Relay and Auto-Relay for events with multiple interpreted languages, or Repeat allowing interpreters to rewind live audio if they missed a word or phrase.

Meeting planners should seek vendors that offer the latest generation interpreter consoles, as they have features allowing interpreters to perform more efficiently. Additionally newer consoles increase the overall fidelity of the audio.

Language Distribution
Language distribution provides the audio of the interpreted languages to the meeting attendees who require interpretation. For the majority of conferences, this is done wirelessly. In the world of interpretation there are two technologies used to wirelessly transmit language channels: RF (radio frequency) or IR (infrared).

Both RF and IR have their advantages and disadvantages, as follow:

– Infrared:
o No interference from cell phones, Wi-Fi and other RF devices
o Secure and Confidential. Using IR prevents eavesdropping or confidential information to be heard outside of the meeting room.
o Audio quality: high fidelity, CD quality audio
o More Channels: IR can accommodate up to 32 channels, while RF rarely goes beyond 8 channels.

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