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I've seen this sort of equipment around for a while. For which sort of meetings is it suitable?

Under which circumstances could it replace a booth, or is it something that should be avoided at all costs? If not, what should be taken into account when working with this system?

asked 03 Nov '11, 09:40

Marta%20Piera%20Marin's gravatar image

Marta Piera ...

edited 03 Nov '11, 09:43

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

+1 for a very good question that I'm sure will attract loads of answers

(03 Nov '11, 09:44) Vincent Buck

I'm also interested in the experience that fellow interpreters might have with this system and not only in what it should be in an ideal world... Maybe my question wasn't all that clear

(04 Nov '11, 14:50) Marta Piera ...

It's a portable equipment used for simultaneous interpreting without a booth. It uses a radio pocket transmitter and any number of receivers with headphones.

It is often used in Germany (according to AIIC's statistical survey it represents aprox 7% of all work, particularly for factory visits and training of technicians), as well as in the Silicon Valley in the United States.

The system has benefited from technical improvements over the years: When the system is used in conjunction with a receiver and headset for the interpreter and a microphone for the speaker, it greatly facilitates the interpreter's work.

What for:

  • factory tours
  • it can substitute whispering-consecutive interpretation (sometimes it is better)
  • small groups (max 10)
  • interactive workshops, technical seminars
  • meetings in max. two languages
  • when participants have to go from one room or shopfloor to another
  • small room, no space for a booth
  • historical buildings where the installation of a booth is not allowed
  • it's sometimes used for court interpreting

Disadvantages for the listener and the interpreter

  • no isolation, you don't hear well
  • the voice of the interpreter will disturb other participants
  • vocal cords: you tend to whisper to avoid disturbing participants
  • the interpreters have to solve the technical problems without the help of a technician (inluding change of battery etc.)
  • possible interferences with same frequences

Working conditions

  • In any case, the use of this system does not justify reducing the number of interpreters in the team (at least two interpreters for two languages)
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answered 03 Nov '11, 15:26

Angela's gravatar image


Some good answers here already. An equally interesting question would be "when not to use an infoport system".

Here are some answers:

  • When you could fit a regular booth in the meeting room. Simultaneous interpreting in a soundproof booth will always be of higher quality and more comfortable for participants.
  • When you're only trying to save some money on the booth. Ask yourself how much you're really saving when you're making communication more difficult for your participants.

Here are some tips for buyers:

  • Talk to a consultant interpreter and describe your set-up to them.
  • Ask whether the consultant interpreter will be on the team himself. Never trust anyone who doesn't eat their own dogfood.
  • Make sure your interpreters can prepare well in advance. They won't be able to google things up from the comfort of a booth.
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answered 04 Nov '11, 15:32

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

edited 04 Nov '11, 15:34

It is advisable to find out as much as you can about the acoustic conditions if asked to interpret with bidule - even if it is only for a short period of time.

Depending on the situation it can be very helpful to at least persuade the client to provide a microphone-loudspeaker system for the speakers so interpreters can hear better and will not disturb the audience as much as would be the case without amplification of the speaker's voice.

Pointing out to the principal that the interpreters might have to walk closer to the speaker(s) to better understand them has sometimes helped to change the principal's mind so that he ordered a booth after all.

It may also be helpful to point out that no extra noise must disturb the sound in the room - which can be extremely unpleasant if the participants cannot open the windows in the summer because otherwise the interpreters cannot hear enough due to street noise for example - again this might persuade a client to accept a booth.

However, sometimes it helps to try your level best and work with bidule (if the conditions are acceptable) but to also use the opportunity to demonstrate to the client that there will always be some background whisper and that there will always be some participants who will find it more difficult to hear because of the background noise (or think you are constantly chatting!) Quite often, they will accept the suggestion to work with a booth the next time around.

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answered 11 Jun '12, 15:26

AlmuteL's gravatar image


edited 12 Jun '12, 16:25

It is a useful device for the already mentioned, specific situations, but the tendency to use it as a substitute for the booth by some agencies in order to cut down the costs should be definitely condemned by all professionals. The difficulty of interpreting is higher, the quality of the interpretation lower.

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answered 30 Jan '16, 09:40

Marek's gravatar image


Let me quote from this website:

"Simultaneous interpretation without a booth (bidule) is a practice to be avoided because of the inherent difficulty - even at best - in producing the requisite high quality of interpretation. In exceptional cases, where such practice is unavoidable, ALL the criteria laid down must be met, namely:

  • exceptional circumstances: visits to factories, hospitals and similar establishments or remote field visits
  • short meetings (e.g. 2 hours)
  • limited number of participants (e.g. a dozen)
  • two-way equipment (i.e. 2 transmission channels and one from interpreters to participants, the other from speakers' microphones (essential) to interpreters' earphones
  • compliance of such equipment with IEC914 standard. In any case, the equipment should be under qualified technical supervision."
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answered 03 Nov '11, 14:51

Delete's gravatar image

Delete ♦

The text you are quoting is from 1991. I suspect that technology has changed since then and maybe also criteria. Have you had any experience with it or have you noticed that clients ask more often for this system?

(04 Nov '11, 15:12) Marta Piera ...

Hi Marta, yes, I worked frequently with this portable equipment some years ago. Of course you can work for many more than 2 hours with it. You could even work for 10 hours, with no colleague, with no breaks at all. The question is: what is the interpreting quality you can expect from working with the bidule? Surely not as high as with a full equipment. The same is true for working hours, breaks, number of interpreters in the team and so on.

Right, the text is from 1991, but funny enough, IMO criteria haven´t changed much since then - or changed in a negative way (especially with regard to the transmission channel from speakers' microphones to interpreters' earphones).

As for clients asking more often for this system, my experience is that this is not an option for "serious" clients like the federal ministries in Germany, which confirms once again that it is not possible to reach the same quality levels with this system.

(05 Nov '11, 09:00) Delete ♦

@Marta: My comments didn´t fit here, so I posted another answer.

(05 Nov '11, 09:02) Delete ♦

(especially with regard to the transmission channel from speakers' microphones to interpreters' earphones).

Concerning the topicality of the 1991 text - I don't know if it is true but I heard that many equipment rental companies are now under financial pressure because they have to upgrade/replace their infoport hardware due to the increasing prevalence of UMTS frequencies. Apparently interference is becoming a real issue. So if you absolutely have to work with an infoport system maybe you want to make sure that it is the latest generation.

(09 Feb '12, 17:51) Tanja

...the answers so far are of course all good and kosher, as in quoting best practices. However,it should be added, for thoroughness' sake, that some markets and some institutional recruiters are using this more and more to replace proper simultaneous. I remember my surprise, 20 years ago when I was secretary to aiic's CdP, to be told in Washington by freelance colleagues that they were increasingly being "forced" to not only use it but also buy it, so that they could provide a package deal...and the IMF comes to mind as a big user of this equipment in missions around the world. If anything, experience tells me, manning strenghts should be upped (but they seldom are, I'm afraid) to make up for the extra vocal stress and aggro of not having an enclosed working space... on the other hand, ventilation problems stop being an issue :-). Finally, I couldn't agree more with Tanja, modern equipment does make a difference, namely when it comes to sound quality, both for ourselves and users.

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answered 11 Feb '12, 11:15

msr's gravatar image


When I worked a lot for the US State Department, all travel assignments used bidule - a wired system for the "seminar" jobs and wireless for conference level jobs. I don't know if they still use the same systems.

A couple of the cons that haven't yet been mentioned here are:

  • the interpreter must learn to speak very quietly, especially if they are sitting next to the speaker or are in a small room. I have been in meetings where one of the supposedly bilingual delegates not using an earphone kept correcting the interpreter's rendition because the interpreter was loud enough to be heard by that delegate who was sitting across the small room.

  • When in a larger room with more people listening, the interpreter's voice will be magnified by coming out of 10, 20, etc. earphones. This is also true when a booth system is set up, but then if participants can't hear, they can get their own earphones to listen to the original. With bidule, this isn't an option, and the other audience members can get pretty annoyed.

One of the pros that also hasn't been mentioned yet, and for me it's a big one, is that we remain a person doing a job, and a part of the meeting. The delegates and speakers see us working, as well as hear us, and cannot think that we are a machine hidden away somewhere that doesn't need water, occasional breaks, etc. We are much more a part of the meeting, even while attempting to remain unobtrusive. For this reason alone, I have no problem using a bidule, assuming that conditions are right. Of course, when one has 3 languages being interpreted into separate bidules (yes, been there, done that), the sound problems become huge, and relay becomes ridiculous.

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answered 09 Feb '16, 06:32

JuliaP's gravatar image


In Argentina it is quite common to use bidules for small meetings. The size of the room, the number of attendees requiring interpretation, all of this is taken into account. I believe that AIIC should come up with a best practices guideline regarding all the aspects that have been mentioned in the various responses, it would be very good indeed.

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answered 17 Feb '12, 13:40

Vicky%20Massa's gravatar image

Vicky Massa

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question asked: 03 Nov '11, 09:40

question was seen: 17,663 times

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