Calliope and its members all belong to the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), which sets standards in the field of conference interpreting.
Ever since simultaneous interpretation took the place of consecutive interpretation as the most frequently used form of verbal translation, there has been a slow but steady trend towards what is now known as RSI, Remote Simultaneous Interpretation. As a general rule, the interpretation booths have always been positioned in the meeting room affording a direct view of the speakers and the screens, and this still remains the best possible scenario in which to provide quality interpretation, especially for large-scale multilingual events. However, developments in communications technology, and the increasing use by business of videoconferencing, webcasting, web streaming and the like, have necessarily required the conference interpretation industry to adapt.
The least remote form of remote simultaneous interpretation
Sometimes, the meeting room is too small to accommodate the interpretation booths. In such cases, placing the booths in an adjacent room can be a perfectly viable solution. However, given that the interpreters have neither the benefit of a direct view of the room nor immediate contact with the organisers, the technical service takes on an even more important role. The interpreters must be provided with high-resolution monitors showing both the speaker and the screen(s); the sound transmitted must be reliable and of high quality; and a technician must be specifically assigned to the task of monitoring the images and sound transmitted to the interpreters, and be able to troubleshoot as soon as an issue arises.
Videoconferencing and webcasting
Communication technologies, such as videoconferencing and webcasting can be used in a traditional conference setting to transmit the interpretation to any participant not attending in person. However, the corporate world and public sector alike are moving away from systematic face-to-face meetings, and interpreters are now being asked to translate in situations where all the participants are in remote locations. Typically we are talking about short presentations, a corporate message or a quarterly stock market analyst report, and this form of remote interpretation can be very successful, offering cost-effective, seamless translation into multiple languages. That success is, however, dependent on several important conditions being met: first and foremost, it is advisable to work with a webcasting provider who has experience of events with simultaneous interpretation and who can provide the necessary technical set-up for the interpreters; secondly, it is crucial for the interpreters to receive all relevant documentation well beforehand; and finally it is vital for the sound to be of at least equivalent quality to the sound quality in a non-remote setting. Bear in mind too that this form of interpretation may be subject to a copyright fee for the interpreters, especially if the sound files are posted online or stored for subsequent use.
Interpreting delivery platforms
Finally, the development of interpretation software platforms is now offering the prospect of the interpretation service being totally removed from the site of the conference. New software programs allow the interpreters to work from a “hub” (a centre with booths and television screens) or simply from their homes, bearing in mind, of course, that interpreters working in the same booth should never be physically separated. While these platforms can be a useful tool for the delivery of a corporate message or a short monthly conference call, offering better sound than Skype or the telephone, these technologies are in their infancy and should be approached with caution. Calliope-Interpreters has done extensive testing of the most promising of these tools and is monitoring developments closely.
So when is remote too remote? Where should you draw the line?
- determine whether a remote solution is suitable for your event and, if so,
- help you choose the optimal technical solution
- put you in touch with the best technical company
- recruit a team of interpreters experienced in working remotely
Examples from our portfolio
The European Psychoanalytical Federation has been a faithful client for many years, entrusting the provision of interpretation in French, English and German to Calliope member Danielle Gree since 2007. Usually the booths are placed at the back of the meeting room, with direct visibility of both the speakers and the screen, but at its Warsaw meeting in 2018 the EPF was a victim of its own success: the room was too small to accommodate hundreds of participants and three booths. It was therefore decided to set up the booths in a quiet corridor behind the meeting room, and the interpreters had the pleasure of overlooking Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science while debating the Origin of Life.
The challenge of a small room
How do you offer five languages in a small room? Our Swiss member came to the rescue supported by a flexible and inventive AV provider. The solution: two booths set up directly adjacent to the meeting room with the delegates, and three booths in a second row behind them with giant screens. “This has proved to be extremely practical, and we are now using the set-up twice a year for European Works Council meetings,” says Christoph Renfer, Calliope’s representative for Switzerland.
Webcasts for shareholders’ meetings
“In recent years, many of our corporate and governmental clients, who used to organise large-scale yearly meetings, requiring many participants to travel vast distances to attend, have switched to monthly web and videoconferences as their communication solution of choice,” says Hazel Cole, Calliope’s representative for Canada. “All our Canadian banking clients now webcast their shareholders’ meeting in both official languages. Also, in addition to providing French interpretation to many other clients wishing to communicate remotely with their Quebec offices, we regularly supply Spanish interpretation both for a major Canadian bank and the Canadian partnership of a leading international accountancy firm in Toronto, allowing their colleagues in South America to follow the events in Canada in real time.”