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What do I need to be aware of when ordering simultaneous interpreters?

Dear LT, I’ve been told I need to hire some simultaneous interpreters for a conference my company is hosting in Paris. Help! I’ve never done this before. Can you call me?

Hi Helena,

First of all, don’t panic. We’re here to help and we’d be delighted to give you a call – just drop us an email to CustomerDelight@LondonTranslations with your phone number and we’ll get right back to you.

In the meantime, I hope you find the information below helpful.

Hiring Simultaneous Interpreters – things to be aware of

Of the six different categories of interpreting, simultaneous interpreting is by far the most demanding.

A minimum of 2 interpreters are required for continuous service of more than a couple of hours.

This comes as a shock to most people. Why do we need 2 people? Surely the interpreting company is just trying to sell us extra interpreters?

The truth is, simultaneous interpreting demands so much concentration that any individual can only hope to be effective for periods of 20 minutes or so.

After that time they will need to hand off to a fellow interpreter and rest. Whilst resting they will continue to follow the proceedings and prepare for their next slot.

For an event lasting more than a couple of hours, 2 interpreters are required to allow adequate rest periods.

Many interpreters will refuse assignments unless they have a deputy. Ideally, someone they have worked with before.

Specialist interpreting equipment is required

Simultaneous interpreters require a sound-proof booth within view of the speaker.

A clear audio feed from the speaker to the interpreters’ headphones is required.

Each interpreter must be equipped with a microphone to relay the interpreted audio to the audience via headphones. We strongly recommend you hire in professionals to set up your venue.

Attempting to cut costs by doing it yourself and getting it wrong can lead to disaster – unintelligible audio, a dissatisfied audience and embarrassed interpreters.

What do we know to make your simultaneous interpreting event a success?

To ensure we are able to provide you with the most accurate and competitive quote for your simultaneous interpreting assignment, it would be extremely helpful if you could provide us with the following information.

  • Language pair(s) required – the number of booths is determined by the number of language pairs.
  • Each sound-proof booth is fully equipped for two interpreters. Booths are 1.8M square and require 1M door clearance at the rear.
  • Number of delegates are attending – this will determine how many infra-red receivers with headphones are required.
  • Layout of the venue – Common layouts include classroom style, theatre style, ‘U’ shaped table.
  • Do you require PA system? PA systems are usually required with theatre layout and where there are over 30 delegates.
  • How many microphones are required? Types are determined by the layout of the conference.

Note: Equipment will be installed by an experienced team and an operator will be in attendance throughout the event to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Equipment installation requires 3 hours and usually takes place the day before the event.

Background information for the interpreters

Having adequate and timely background information ahead of a simultaneous interpreting assignment is vital.

As interpreting is being carried out in real-time, there is no scope for going back and correcting mistakes. If at all possible we suggest you:

  • Provide drafts of speeches and explain any specialist vocabulary.
  • Schedule some time with the interpreter ahead of the day to brief them on any company politics they should be aware of.
  • Provide a breakdown of how the day will be structured so that the interpreters can begin to plan their work. It is very likely that one of them has specialist knowledge which would be best used during a particular part of a presentation.

Whilst we may have made it sound frightening, organising a successful event is really a matter of forward planning, your interpreting company should be more than happy to help you.

Don’t forget, you can also download a free copy of our buyers guide “Interpreting Without Tears”.

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