The setups of remote & on-site simultaneous interpreting 遠隔同時通訳と現地同時通訳の現場

The other day, for the first time in 16 months, I undertook a simultaneous interpreting assignment in a real (physical!) interpreting booth on site. The picture above shows my booth. It is a portable booth, almost the size of a telephone booth. As simultaneous interpretation is usually provided by two or more interpreters who take turns every 15 minutes or so, most of the interpreting booths pre-covid were for two interpreters. This time, however, a one-person booth was used for covid reasons. A device on the desk (called a console) is used to listen to the audio from the conference hall and to simultaneously interpret into via the attached microphone.


The conference was a ministerial-level meeting related to the G7, with the heads of some international organisations also participating remotely. 


Interpreters from all over the world have been interpreting online (e.g. Zoom) meetings remotely from their homes for more than a year now. So it was a real pleasure to be able to interpret in a real booth on site. It gave me a little glimmer of hope that the end of the pandemic might be just about within sight.


Now, I would like to explain a little about my remote interpreting set up at home, which you can see in the picture above. I usually use two PCs, a large screen and two mobile devices for remote simultaneous interpreting. One of the PCs was bought specifically for the purpose of remote simultaneous interpretation. The large screen is for enlarging a shared screen and the second PC is to keep open any useful reference material. 


In addition, if I am on Zoom, I also use two mobile devices. A tablet is for joining the same meeting from a different account to my main PC's. This is so that I can listen to the voice of my partner interpreter, or to an interpreter of another language interpreting into English (called relay).


As I mentioned above, simultaneous interpreting is usually done by two or more interpreters who take turns every 15 minutes or so. However, in the case of remote interpretation, the partner interpreter is of course in her/his own home, and unlike when we are sitting side by side in a real two-person booth, we cannot signal for handovers (when our 15 minutes is up).  So, in order to signal a handover, we use a messenger app on our phones to send messages to each other. We also check the mute/unmute status of our partner's microphone icon on the Zoom screen, so that there is no overlap or gap when we switch.


Finally, I would like to ask everyone a favour. When you take part in a web meeting with interpreters, please make sure to use a head/earphone with a microphone. Even an inexpensive earphone is better than using the PC's internal microphone. The sound quality that may appear acceptable to someone who is passively listening could quite possibly be too poor for simultaneous interpreters. If you could stick to this rule, the quality of the interpretation you hear from your interpreter will be noticeably improved. Thank you for your cooperation!