L’oreal or how we did simultaneous interpreting with relay using Radioguide equipment

Today we had a really challenging experience: we had to organize simultaneous interpreting into 2 languages – English and French – without stationary interpreting booths but using portable Radioguide equipment. When we were discussing it with the translation agency they said that we, English-Russian interpreters, will be interpreting between English and Russian and French-Russian interpreters will interpret directly from English into French and vice versa. Well, the set up seemed a little odd, but quite realistic: we really have such specialists who work from one non-native language into another. I thought so and calmed down. And then, a day before the 1st day of work, a French interpreter called me and said that e and his partner were hired to interpret between French and Russian and he can work from English in theory but his partner absolutely cannot. So what are we going to do about it? It would be really funny unless in fact it was not. We tried to speak again with the manager and the client but they made it clear that it was too late to change anything and we had to work with what we had. I was trying to think of the ways to do this and understood that it was possible: very uncomfortable, we would not be able to switch channels, but possible. The next day when we came to the venue and saw a technitian I was so happy that I practically fell into his arms! Since at that time I was ready for anything: I thought that may be we will have to make the set up ourselves ( it also happens, but without relay, of course). So we all gathered together – 4 interpreters and 1 technician – and through joint brain storm figured out the following scheme: English-Russian interpreters will be working close to the speakers and the slides, French-Russian interpreters – at the maximum distance from us at the back of the room. Thank God, the technician managed to channel the sound to our headsets ( I thought we probably will be working without them). We checked everything: it worked. We, English-Russian interpreters, hear the speaker through the headset and interpret into our microphone into Russian. French-Russian interpreters hear our interpreting through their headset pluged in the Radioguide receiver, the same as our listeners have, and interpret into French into their microphone set to another channel. The listeners can select the respective channel on their receivers – Russian or French. It seems that all is well. However! We cannot switch the channels. It means that if the next presentation is in French we have to physically change places with French interpreters. In the process the channels also get switched, which is uncomfortable for the listeners. And if the presentation is, say, in English, but someone asks a question in French…that’s it, the translation is impossible, otherwise we will have constant movement of interpreters in the room. Or we can sit like this: one English-Russian interpreter and one French-Russian interpreter and hand over the microphone depending on what language is used. But how can we track the working time under such scheme – аnd we should change every 20/30 minutes. At the last session when the participants expressed gratitude to one another we did just that – it was amuzing. I thought that it resembled the work of interpreters at the Nurnberg trial when there were 3 interpreters in each booth – English-Russian, German-Russian and French-Russian. I never thought I will find myself in a similar situation – but an interpreter’s life is full of surprises!

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