10 questions on conference equipment support for interpreting services
Languages: How many languages do I need interpreting services for? This impacts the type and number of transmitters required.
Location: Where will the interpreters be set up? This impacts the size and portability of the equipment required.
Time: What time will the event start and finish? How much time do we have? This impacts the type of interpreting service required. Simultaneous interpreting is the fastest. Consecutive interpreting doubles the speaking time.
Budget: What is the budget of the meeting, event, or conference? This impacts the type of interpreting service required. Simultaneous interpreting is relatively more expensive than consecutive interpreting.
Audience size: How many participants or audience members require the interpreting service? This determines the number of primary and backup receivers required.
Venue: Is there a clear line of sight between the transmitter and the receiver at the venue? If yes, then infrared, the most secure technology, is a possibility. If no, then an FM system is required.
Mobility: How mobile will the speakers be? Speakers at small meetings and open air events may prefer mobility. The listeners receive receivers and headsets so that they may roam within the broadcast range. The interpreter providing consecutive interpreting services receives a transmitter and microphone and stands closely to the speaker.
Portability: How portable do I need my system to be? How quickly do I need the equipment set up and taken down?
Security: How secure do I need my system to be? Infrared is the most secure but the least portable.
Power: How powerful do I need my system to be? What’s the minimum required distance for the broadcast range? The power of the radio frequency equipment determines its broadcast range.
As described above, there is a general tradeoff between portability, security, and power. The more portable the equipment, the faster the transport, set-up, and take down. The more secure the equipment, the higher the privacy and confidentiality of the audio broadcast. The more powerful the equipment, the largest broadcast range.
How does interpreting work?
The speaker of the floor language speaks into a microphone, also called the floor mic or floor feed.
The floor feed is broadcast to the interpreter, who listens through headphones from a separate space such as a soundproof booth, the back of the room, or another room.
The interpreter listens to the floor feed and speaks into a microphone. The interpreter delivers the “target language” or “translation feed.” There may be more than one target language. For example, a Chinese delegate may speak in Mandarin Chinese to an American audience. The Chinese interpreter listens to the floor language of Mandarin Chinese and speaks the target language of English. The audience members listen to the interpreting feed through headphones.
What are some types of conference equipment for interpreting services?
Radio frequency equipment
Radio frequency equipment is less secure than infrared but far more portable. Radio frequency accesses band channels which broadcast signals that can penetrate walls, doors, and buildings. Tour guide systems use portable radio frequency units with transmitters that limit their broadcast. For example, a Korean interpreter can use portable radio frequency while providing interpreting services to a Korean executive giving a walking tour to a group of American participants.
Digital radio wave systems are light, sleek, and ultra-portable. The multi-channel configuration allows interpreters to easily customize the system to support multiple languages at the same time. For example, our translation company’s Chinese and Japanese interpreters can carry the right number of multi-channel receivers to provide interpreting services in both Chinese and Japanese at events.
Radio wave transmitters and receivers do not interfere with movement so they are perfect for on-the-go simultaneous and consecutive interpreting. Radio signals penetrate walls and other obstacles so, unlike infrared, they do not require a clear line of sight. Also, radio systems are perfect for both indoor and outdoor use because they are immune to light interference. The more powerful radio FM systems provide a longer range.
More advanced radio FM systems feature interference-canceling and encryption technology. These cancel out radio interference, improve security, and offer higher sound quality.
Infrared equipment is the most secure technology available for translation companies. Governments and courts use infrared. Infrared signals require a clear line of sight to the audience as they cannot penetrate walls or doors. Therefore, the emitters must remain uncovered and be installed about the audience. Bright or flashing lights may interfere with infrared systems. The receiver must be in direct view of the infrared emitters, or radiators, to receive the signal.
Soundproof booths allow interpreters to deliver live simultaneous interpreting services. A translation company’s technician arrives to set up the booths at least 90 minutes in advance of the event. We can feed audio to the booth by using our wireless sound feed equipment or by plugging into your existing sound system.
In the booths, the interpreter may switch between consecutive and simultaneous interpreting modes. For example, a Japanese interpreter may provide consecutive interpreting services when English speakers ask questions to Japanese delegates. The interpreter switches to simultaneous interpreting when a delegate gives a presentation in Japanese.
Fully encapsulated booths
Fully encapsulated booths have space for two to three interpreters. As they eliminate ambient noise, these booths are ideal for conferences, events, and meetings in multiple languages.
Table top booths
Table top booths fit on top of large tables. As they are not fully soundproof, audience members close to the booth may hear the interpreter’s voice. These booths are useful for short events. A meeting, event, or conference in a large room may require a portable table top booth and switch box.
Conference microphone systems, also known as push-to-talk microphones, improve accessibility, save time, enable language interpreting, and enhance communication through professionalism. They are especially useful for meetings and events at board rooms, conference and meeting facilities, convention centers, classrooms, educational seminars, focus groups, government settings, school boards, and PTAs.
In a typical conference setup, each participant has a personal, gooseneck style microphone unit. With multilingual groups, conference microphone systems work well with simultaneous interpreting equipment. The individual mics allow the floor feed to be sent directly to the interpreter so that he or she has a clear audio signal to interpret.
Capital Linguists is a translation company that offers live in person and over the phone interpreting and conference equipment support services.