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I've heard clients resort more and more to remote interpreting.

Is it a viable technically? What are the difficulties for interpreters and are there any rules?

On the other hand, I've noticed that clients tend to speak of remote interpreting when they mean remote video conferencing. Can someone explain the difference?

asked 30 Oct '11, 11:25

Marta%20Piera%20Marin's gravatar image

Marta Piera ... ♦
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edited 30 Oct '11, 11:27

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Remote interpreting has been notoriously difficult to define.

It helps to think in terms of who exactly is the remote party, and to define as a party anyone who's supposed to speak and be interpreted at the event.

In other words, I'm suggesting that it's not helpful to (also) define remote interpreting in terms of where the listeners are located. Whether they're a few meters away from the interpreter or a continent apart makes no practical difference.

So who are the remote parties? I would distinguish between 3 situations:

  1. The interpreter(s) only, whilst those who will use interpretation are assembled in a single venue
  2. Both interpreter(s) and all participants in the meeting/call/videoconference/broadcast
  3. One or more participants only, whilst the interpreter(s) and some other participants are in one physical location.

There are of course many variations on the above.

An example of 1. is an interpreter working in a television studio (usually a vocal booth) from a monitor for a show that's taking place in another studio in the same building or further afield.

An example of 2. is a telephone interpreting call where an interpreter and two participants converse over a traditional line or VoIP from 3 different countries.

An example of 3. is a big event with a plenary room and interpreting booths at the back, but where one guest speaker addresses the audience remotely, over a satellite link for instance.

How remote should the protagonists be for the situation to qualify as remote interpreting?

Traditionally, professional conference interpreters have maintained that they require a direct view of the speaker and the room ( AIIC Code of Ethics, Working Conditions, Article 7 ), barring exceptional circumstances. So if you ask interpreters to work from monitors in the room across the hall, you're doing - or asking your interpreters to do - remote interpreting.

There are some very good - but also very bad - reasons why interpreters insist on being on location with the delegates. Let me list some of the good reasons:

  1. Not being able to survey the meeting room deprives the interpreter of vital information ( body language, visual cues, overall mood, etc )
  2. Being remote means it's impossible for the team leader to leave the booth and ask for a copy of the latest documents distributed in the room.
  3. There are real issues with the quality of the sound and image that gets fed to the interpreters' headphones and in-booth monitors. Irrespective of the nominal bandwidth, you're never sure how it's going to pan out. You may end up with major signal loss that's a serious impediment to quality interpreting.

That said:

  • Objection 1 above does not apply if you're interpreting a remote speaker, or if everybody is remote (situations 2 and 3).

  • Objection 2 does not apply in many situations where the interpreter would not receive any documentation anyway, either because it does not exist, or the meeting is extremely confidential, or the speaker will simply not unveil his intentions before the event.

  • Objection 3 will eventually be almost totally removed with improvements in technology.

That leaves the main objection for many - though not all - interpreters: remote interpreting breaks away from what many professional interpreters have grown accustomed to.

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answered 30 Oct '11, 16:21

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Vincent Buck ♦♦
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edited 30 Oct '11, 19:24

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  • ‘Teleconferencing' or ‘remote interpreting' nowadays refers to meetings with interpretation at which interpreters are located in a place other than the meeting room. This means they do not have a direct view of the speakers, the rostrum or of what's going on in the room.

  • ‘Videoconference' with interpretation is one specific kind of "remote interpreting". The term is most widely used for events (e.g. business meetings, associations' meetings, press conferences and product launches) at which one or more speakers (usually VIPs unable to come) address a meeting at which the interpreters are all in the same room as participants . The off-site speakers are projected on a screen in the meeting room (and also on monitors in or in front of the interpreters' booths) and their speech is transmitted directly to the headsets of participants and interpreters.

For more information, please read this article by Jean Pierre Allain:

In my opinion, the most important technical requirement is the following:

  • Audio requirements: The ISO 2603 standard prescribes a clear reproduction of sound frequencies between 125 Hz and 12,500 Hz over the whole speaker-interpreter-listeners circuit, in order to ensure adequate hearing without loss of message. The synchronisation of sound and image is especially important with satellite links.

The following requirements apply for remote interpreting at the European Institutions (for freelance and staff interpreters):

Video from Lourdes (A word in your ear), February 2012:

Pepe Esteban, antiguo jefe de la unidad Tecnología de Conferencia, Dirección General de la Interpretación, DG INTERPRETACIÓN, Comisión Europea, nos habla de la videoconferencia, sus ventajas e inconvenientes.

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answered 30 Oct '11, 12:01

Angela's gravatar image

Angela ♦
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edited 30 Mar '12, 16:41

Some great answers here. There are also specialist organisations now starting to appear, and who can give advice and guidance on the technological, language/communication and cultural aspects

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answered 03 Dec '13, 06:42

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jonpotter
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edited 03 Dec '13, 07:06

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Vincent Buck ♦♦
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No commercial plugs please. If you have anything to contribute, take some time and provide your own answer, or ask a question, on this site.

(03 Dec '13, 06:55) Vincent Buck ♦♦

Sincere apologies. Wasn't intended to be a promotion / plug.

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answered 03 Dec '13, 07:01

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question asked: 30 Oct '11, 11:25

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last updated: 03 Dec '13, 07:06

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