The coronavirus, or COVID-19, has impacted literally every single industry in the world. Companies had to shut down or make their employees work from home, events and conferences were cancelled or moved online, and also interpreters had to exchange the comfort of their oh-so familiar booth for their own home office. Remote Simultaneous Interpreting, or RSI, has boomed these last couple of months. In this blog article, we will dig deeper into the world of RSI.
Simultaneous interpreting means that interpreters render a spoken message into a different spoken language, preserving the register and meaning of the source text. The most common form of simultaneous interpreting is on-site interpreting, where the interpreters sit in the booth, in the same room as their listeners. These listeners can select their preferred language by switching to the appropriate channel and listen to live interpretation.
In RSI, however, interpreters do not work on-site, but rather from an interpreting hub or their home office. In that case, audio and video are being streamed to the location of the interpreters and based on that input, they deliver their interpretation.
The traditional form of simultaneous interpreting requires interpreters to be on-site, thus implying higher travel and accommodation expenses. In RSI, these expenses do (almost) not exist, as all participants (including interpreters) can attend the conference or meeting from the comfort of their homes. This also means there are no longer geographical barriers, as every delegate can participate from all over the world.
Also the costs for technical equipment are much lower, as no physical booths need to be installed in the conference room.
Lastly, as there is no need to travel and to install the equipment beforehand, you can actually save time by using the remote interpreting mode. This might become an attractive solution for shorter meetings or webinars, where in the past interpreters were not used because of the cost implications.
Although travel and accommodation expenses are removed in RSI, there is an additional cost for the use of the existing interpreting platforms, such as Interprefy, Kudo, Zoom.
Secondly, in order for remote simultaneous interpreting to work smoothly, it is crucial that all participants have access to a quality headset with external (no built-in) microphone and a good internet connection. If the sound input is of bad quality, it impedes interpreters from rendering an excellent interpretation.
Also, the use of an online interpreting platform requires some additional preparation time to configure the system and to get used to working with the platform. Keep that in mind when using RSI.
Last but not least, unfortunately the technology for remote simultaneous interpreting is not flawless yet, and sometimes the connection gets broken, interpreters or participants are thrown out of the system or the sound quality is not good enough to interpret from. In an on-site setting, there would be a technician on site to provide technical assistance. In RSI (and especially home offices), although technicians are available online, very often they are not at the same location as the interpreters or participants.
These are some problems that might come up during an online conference or meeting. Please be aware of them.
When you eventually decide to use RSI, it is of the utmost importance that all participants have a quality headset with an external microphone, e.g. Sennheiser, Koss, Logitech. Do not use the earplugs of your mobile phone or the integrated microphone of your computer, as the sound quality will not be good enough for interpreters to work from.
Participants will also need an excellent internet connection, preferably an ethernet cable connection, so there won’t be any interruptions or breakdowns. It is also recommended that participants use a webcam, as this improves the intelligibility of speakers.
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