Article by Chris Redish

So you have a conference springing up, and you know it will have some attendees who cannot speak English. You tried taking a crash course in Japanese, but somehow it was tougher than you realized. What are you going to consider next?Probably the best strategy should be to call a company that specializes in supplying simultaneous interpreters and related equipment for simultaneous interpreting at meetings. Even though the term simultaneous translation is frequently used, as it happens, that is a misnomer. Translation indicates “written” form, whereas interpretation refers to the spoken word.You’ll want to ensure that you request simultaneous interpretation, in place of consecutive interpretation. Simultaneous interpreting allows the conference to advance at full speed. The audience members will each wear a small headphone or earpiece that lets them hear the interpreter’s voice while the meeting is going on. Consecutive interpretation, however, slows the meeting down to half speed, as the speaker must temporarily halt after each sentence in order for the interpreter to translate.The interpreting company you contact will ask you questions about your event:– Which are the languages?– What’s the subject matter?– What is the total number of listeners for each language?– What number of people will be inside the room total (or what size 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 they know what they are doing. Many translation providers specialize in other areas of language work — find one that specializes in conference interpreting. Be as specific and complete as you can in your answers.Make sure that the firm will be providing skilled conference interpreters. There are many types of interpreting. Many interpreters who are excellent at, for instance, court interpreting, are weak conference interpreters.The interpreters must be familiar with your subject matter. A medical interpreter can probably explain the insides of a person, but may very well be clueless about the insides of a computer. Each subject area, especially a technical one, has its own inherent jargon which can be bewildering to interpreters unfamiliar with that particular arena.Conference interpreters usually work as a team of two people per language (or occasionally, three per language in high-stress circumstances). Don’t try to scrimp by working with a single interpreter, it usually backfires — an interpreter who’s willing to work solo at an all-day conference is probably not very experienced. Remember, your participants may have spent thousands of dollars to be at your event. You need them to be able to understand and appreciate it, so next time they’ll come back with their colleagues.It might be wise to receive quotes from a number of providers, but it’s not recommended to make a decision purely on price. Interpreters are not like boxes of cornflakes — each interpreter is different. Each interpreter carries an unique set of strengths and weaknesses.Matching interpreters to potential clients is an art that takes many years of training. Choose a firm which you trust to make the best choice for you.

Chris Redish has owned A Bridge Between Nations, an international conference nterpreting company, for 15 years.

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