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!

Remote simultaneous interpreting

Here is how the work place of a remote simultaneous interpreter looks like 🙂

A while ago I have discovered RSI (remote simultaneous interpreting). It is a new technology for remote simultaneous interpreting: the interpreter is located at home (or in a studio) and is interpreting remotely the event taking place hundreds kilometers away from him or her using an online platform. What is required to do this? First and foremost, the PC with stable high-speed internet connection and, even better, two of them – 1st for interpreting and 2nd for opening support materials, presentations, dictionaries, etc. Secondly, a professional microphone and headphones are necessary: I have Blue Yeti Nano and Sennheiser earbuds. I am fully satisfied with the microphone: it is possible to adjust the gain using the knob and plug the headphones directly into it (for the purpose of fine tuning and work). As for the headset I have not yet decided what is more comfortable for me – to have full-fledged headphones or earbuds, I will try different models to see which suits me best. As for the RSI platform – I worked on Interprefy – it is quite easy to use though there are hidden challenges here. The most complicated thing in my opinion is the handover process: it is very different from what interpreters working in interpreting booths are used to. Moreover, the interpreters do not see each other, work in different locations and the only means of communication is the platform chat or any other messenger. And if the platform loses sight of your partner, you are completely at a loss – you cannot know if the partner switched on his mic and is ready to work and how to inform him that it is time to step in. Of course, there is a chat but it is quite challenging to type anything in the process of interpreting (at least I am not used to it). Quite often there are problems with the sound, the visibility through the web-cam is much worse compared to working on site and there is an opportunity to see only 1 picture: either of the speaker or of the slides (the latter not always). Therefore, it often happens that you have to work without any visual support. However, I have to give credit to the translation companies providing RSI services: they pay great attention to providing the complete package of materials. So if you cannot see the presentation through the web-cam you can simply open it on your PC/laptop. And the majority of problems occuring during the process are managed by the moderator and technical staff on site. I believe that there is only one situation when the support team is powerless – power blackout. However, as you can imagine, it happens very rarely, especially in Moscow, and if it does, the power is timely restored. In case it happens there is a plan B: you can work using the mobile internet on the laptop running on the battery or via specialized mobile application on the smartphone. Though I thankfully have not yet had the need to use it. In any case, it is a very interesting and useful experience: the technologies are moving forward and you have to move with them!