Posted by: sbilingual | February 20, 2012

A Few Tips on How to Work with Simultaneous Interpreters

When you have to organize a conference where two or more languages will be spoken, you will most probably use simultaneous interpretation, with conference interpreters working from one or several booths, through technical equipment, such as transmitters and microphones, and with the audience listening through earphones.


Our interpreters are experienced and highly-qualified professionals, but in order to facilitate their stressful job, and thus contribute to the success of your conference, we offer the following suggestions. Experience tells us that following these tips could be the difference between an average to good service and an elegant, extraordinary, standing ovation interpretation that represents you as an experienced and successful organizer:

  • Contract a reliable technical equipment company with solid experience in simultaneous interpretation, which is much more demanding in terms of sound quality and fine-tuning than your everyday supplier of audiovisual support. Having specialized to work with interpreters, they will understand details considered unimportant by the average technician, such as positioning the booths to allow interpreters direct eye contact with the speakers, and other details, such as full view of any screens used for projections, and the possibility for interpreters to leave and return to their booths discreetly. Our AV technicians work exclusively with interpreters in multilingual conferences.
  • Professional interpreters are completely transparent and, from the audience perspective, their delivery should be as if the speakers were making the presentation in the language of the listeners. When asked by speakers about our work and what to do, we simply tell them to forget about us and proceed as if we did not exist. However, we prefer a very fast speaker and not a slow reader, since reading eliminates inflection, body language and mental process. To achieve transparency, impress upon your speakers the need to speak at reasonable speed, and as far as possible, to avoid reading their entire presentations instead of ad-libbing, because however skilled the interpreters are, some meaning may, literally, be “lost in translation” if they have to rush through a speech being read at unreasonable speed. If the speaker is going to be reading, the interpreters should also have a copy of the material to be read, so that they too may read and provide an accurate onsite interpretation of the written material.


    • Although our interpreters are knowledgeable in many fields and have long years of experience, they can never stop reading, researching, studying and learning. Consequently, it is essential for them to receive as much documentation as possible, and this should be early enough before the conference starts. A minimum requirement would be a detailed agenda. Also, any relevant documents being circulated during the conference should be made available immediately to the interpreters. You should designate someone in your organization responsible to provide the chief interpreter with at least one copy per booth of all documents that are to be discussed in the conference.
    • Simultaneous interpreters should not work alone for more than 90 minutes, as an absolute maximum. Beyond this lapse of time, concentration, performance, accuracy and overall quality of work decline drastically. Standard practice of the profession is to work in teams of 2 (or even 3) interpreters taking turns every 30 minutes. When an interpreter works for an extended period of time without breaks every 30 minutes, not only quality suffers, but he/she will be exhausted and you are not going to be able to use that interpreter again for the remainder of the day.


    • Another standard of the profession is to allow interpreters one full hour for lunch break. While participants may come back to the conference room at whatever time they want and meetings will not always reconvene according to schedule, interpreters must necessarily be in there booths at the time scheduled, so having them stand in long lines for lunch buffets is not the appropriate thing to do.
  • 70% of body water is lost through breathing and talking. Interpreters talk all the time throughout the conference and therefore need a permanent supply of drinking water.

To find out how Bilingual Resources Group can support your interpretation, translation and bilingual staffing needs, please call 504-253-0364 or visit



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