So you have an event springing up, and you know it will have some attendees who don’t speak English. You tried enrolling in a crash course in Japanese, but somehow it was harder than you realized. What will you consider next?
Possibly the best idea would be to call a business that specializes in providing simultaneous interpreters and equipment for simultaneous interpreting at conferences. Although the term simultaneous translation is sometimes used, in fact, this is a misnomer. Translation implies “written” form, whereas interpretation is the term for the spoken word.
It is advisable to ensure that you request simultaneous interpretation, instead of consecutive interpretation. Simultaneous interpreting allows the gathering to carry on at full speed. The audience members will each wear a small headphone or ear piece that lets them hear the interpreter’s voice while the meeting is going on. Consecutive interpretation, however, slows the meeting down to half speed, since the speaker must temporarily halt after each phrase in order for the interpreter to translate.
The interpreting company you speak to will ask you questions about your event:
— Which are the languages?
— What’s the subject material?
— What is the total number of listeners for each language?
— How many people will be in the room total (or how big is the room)?
— What type of audience will be attending?
Let the potential interpreting company ask you the questions – it’s a great way to ensure that they know what they are doing. Many translation agencies specialize in other areas of language work — try to look for one that specializes in conference interpreting. Be as specific and complete as you can in your responses.
Be sure this agency will be providing seasoned conference interpreters. There are various styles of interpreting. Many interpreters who are excellent at, for example, court interpreting, are weak conference interpreters.
The interpreters must be informed about your subject matter. A medical interpreter may be able to explain the insides of a person, but may be clueless about the insides of a computer. Each subject area, especially a technical one, has its own inherent jargon that may be baffling to interpreters unfamiliar with that unique arena.
Conference interpreters typically work as a team of two people per language (or occasionally, three per language in high-stress situations). Don’t try to cut corners by working with a single interpreter, it often backfires — an interpreter who is willing to work solo at an all-day conference is typically not very experienced. Remember, your delegates may have spent thousands of dollars to be at your conference. You need them to be able to understand and enjoy it, so next time they’ll come back with their colleagues.
It’s a wise idea to get estimates from multiple agencies, but it’s not a good idea to make a decision solely on price. Interpreters are not like boxes of cornflakes — each interpreter is different. Each interpreter carries a unique set of strengths and weaknesses.
Matching interpreters to customers is an art that takes years of practice. Choose a company that you trust to make the best selection for you.