Translation Equipment (or to use its more correct names: simultaneous interpreting equipment or simultaneous interpretation equipment) is used in conferences and meetings to convey the voice of an interpreter to the listeners. You’ve probably seen pictures of the United Nations where the delegates each have a little earpiece – that’s translation equipment. Specifically, that’s the earpiece attached to the receiver.

Here’s how it works:

At the back of the room (or in an adjacent room) a team of interpreters sits in a sound-dampening booth, listening to the presenter through headphones. They do the hard part: they simultaneously listen and interpret what they hear into another language. Their voice is picked up by a microphone, which distributes the sound through an interpreter console to a transmitter.

The transmitter acts like a miniature radio station – it sends a signal out to the room. Each listener then hears the interpreter’s voice on a small receiver, through an earpiece. Some transmitters are infrared – they use invisible light waves to distribute the signal throughout the room. The main use of infrared equipment is in top-secret conferences such as government and UN meetings, where even the slightest chance of eavesdropping cannot be tolerated. Since light cannot pass through opaque walls, infrared interpreting equipment is considered absolutely private (as long as you remember to close the drapes!)

The other main kind of translation equipment is FM radio-based. Here, a low-power radio signal on a specific frequency is broadcast through the room.

If more than one language is being interpreted, then each one is on a separate frequency or channel, and the listeners select the language they want to hear on their receiver.

Some tips for making sure your simultaneous interpretation goes smoothly:

1) Make sure your interpreters can see the people who are speaking – position them so they have a good view of the stage or podium, or set up video monitors for them instead.

2) Put the booths on risers if you can –- this helps to make sure their view is not obstructed by the audience.

3) Use a full booth whenever your budget will allow –- it makes life easier for both the interpreters and the audience.

4) Don’t try to get by without a technician! Good interpreting technicians are a crucial ingredient in the success of your meeting. We have found that regular AV technicians and well-meaning volunteers cannot take the place of an interpretation technician without thorough training.

5) Choose a company that specializes in translation equipment. More generalized translation agencies will often purchase a small amount of translation equipment, but they often don’t have the expertise and experience to do a good job in a wide variety of events.

If you need simultaneous interpreting, here is a great source for next conference:  Translation Equipment

Chris Redish owns A Bridge Between Nations, a full-service Conference Interpreting company which rents and sells Translation Equipment in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Orlando, Miami, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Houston, Washington DC, Chicago and New York and all other major U.S. cities. He would be happy to provide you with a free translation estimate for your next conference: 1-888-556-3887

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