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You see the conference hall, the technician has told you that nobody has taken earphones. Should you work nevertheless? Even if nobody listens? Sometimes the organizers tell you that you are just a "back-up" or "on stand-by". It would not be necessary to translate for nobody, in that case. However, what about the other cases?

asked 23 Nov '11, 16:38

LiA's gravatar image


edited 19 Jan '12, 06:21

Delete's gravatar image

Delete ♦

Unless you are very sure about who is listening to you keep working.

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answered 28 Jan '12, 07:58

Pip's gravatar image


One can never be too sure... and better safe than sorry. Suppose someone comes in without your noticing him/her and switches to your channel, what would you say afterwards? I believe that if you have been paid for interpreting, then you should interpret unless the organizer specifically comes around and tells you that it is not necessary ,

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answered 19 Jan '12, 18:01

Vicky%20Massa's gravatar image

Vicky Massa

ALWAYS keep interpreting. Apart from the argument that's what you are being paid for, there are more important elements. You never know if anyone is going to start listening without warning. It keeps you updated with the exchange that's going on, so don't get some nasty surprise if there a reference to something you missed few minutes before. Also, the more you exercise your brain, the better it works. Even if you are not doing it for anyone in the meeting, you are still doing it for yourself.

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answered 24 Jan '12, 16:31

Amato's gravatar image


If you're only working for delegates in the one hall that you can see, ie not being recorded or piped into anywhere else, and if based on visuals and info received you believe there's nobody listening (and you're not being taken on relay!) by all means ask - over the microphone - whoever may be listening to your channel to confirm that you're coming through loud and clear by, say, a wave of the hand in your direction and if nothing happens say that you are going to discontinue interpretation on that channel...and do so :-).

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answered 23 Nov '11, 23:31

msr's gravatar image


edited 28 Nov '11, 20:17

On the other hand, if you are interpreting in a large hall, interpreting is being offered into several languages, and/or earphones are available at all seats, you should be wary. Even if you know that there is only one person or delegation that theoretically would need the language you are interpreting into and they are not present at the moment, there may be times when others tune into your channel. I've seen this happen, for example when someone with a hard-to-follow accent takes the floor and some participants tune into the channel of their second language because they think they might be able to better follow the speaker through a professional interpreter.

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answered 17 Jan '12, 13:38

Luigi's gravatar image


If you work into an exotic or rare language like I do, you have more chances of being able to identify your listeners and the risk of somebody else listening to you is close to zero. I frequently work in situations like this. In such circumstances, I think it is almost unprofessional to go on interpreting if nobody is listening to you. Of course you have to remain vigilant and keep paying attention to what goes on in the meeting so that you can start interpreting again from practically mid-sentence if your client(s) return and put their headset(s) back on!

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answered 26 Jan '12, 19:07

Sirpa's gravatar image


I agree with Vicky Massa. Unless you know the organiser really well and/or they specifically ask you not to interpret.

Apart from not immediately noticing what may turn out to be your one and only "customer" sneaking in and (disappointed) out again there might also be the odd organiser who - after having finished with the registration desk stuff and all the other logistics that keeps them busy at the beginning of an event- may want to pop in to see whether everything is OK.

Psychologically I don’t think it is a good move to be seen chatting away to your booth mate in such a situation. After all, even if it is not our fault that the conference organiser overestimated the demand for simultaneous interpretation, it kind of rubs it in that their misjudgement may just have wasted several thousands of Euros. I mean, the money is gone either way but at least it’s not quite as patently obvious if we are at least showing goodwill/politeness. Actually, I need to edit the last sentence – if we just carry on regardless, doing what we are getting paid for. It’s like bus drivers, still reliably going on the same tour, even if there’s no one waiting at the bus stop?

Also, what if the PCO comes in and faces a chicken and egg problem: Are the conference interpreters not working because no one is listening or is no one listening because they are not working?

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answered 28 Jan '12, 14:30

Tanja's gravatar image


edited 28 Jan '12, 14:31

I agree with all the reasons why one should be wary before turning off the mike. Isn't it infinitely more motivating to work when you can tell people truly rely on the interpretation? I find it terribly difficult to keep my concentration when I suspect nobody is listening. In fact, even when I am certain people are tuned in to our channel, I have the habit of imagining that a highly influential person is listening because I think it makes a difference in my delivery by making me sound more engaged. So I'd rather not even know if we have no listeners!

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answered 31 Mar '12, 20:38

Laura's gravatar image


edited 31 Mar '12, 20:40


With my usual booth mates, we invariably end up cracking up with laughter at those confusing conferences when you are told no one is listening to you by a mindful sound operator or even your contact with the client. We start by asking the question very properly and as we grow certain that no one is actually listening we start asking them to please raise their little finger rather than their hand, an eyebrow, their left elbow, to PLEASE PLEASE raise their hand, and so on. How terribly dangerous!

(31 Mar '12, 20:58) Laura

I completely agree with Luigi and Amato. I have been in situations where Kosovar participants would switch from the Albanian language to the Serbo-Croatian language channel or distracted participants would ask for a summary of the speaker's latest argument before answering a question directly related to the discussion at hand. And again, as an interpreter you get a better insight and feeling of the message by interpreting than simply listening to the floor.

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answered 25 Jan '12, 09:27

eneida104's gravatar image


edited 25 Jan '12, 09:28

I beg to differ: I do not think that interpreting is the best way to understand a message (and certainly not to remember it) ... and I did not imply that after one stops working one should stop listening :-), nor do I think that these latest replies take into account frustration resulting from not having an audience neither bad habits one may easily pick up when working for no audience and taking shortcuts. You are right, Luigi, one should be wary...which is why whenever I see "suspicious" movement in the hall I ask again whether anyone is listening in... of course, if the hall is too big for visuals, one should keep plowing on!

(25 Jan '12, 14:37) msr

I appear as having voted down the above answer but have certainly not intended to do so. Can no longer cancel. Moderators, please help!

(29 Jan '12, 13:56) Sirpa
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question asked: 23 Nov '11, 16:38

question was seen: 5,386 times

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