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Conference Interpreting Equipment

Simultaneous interpreting generally requires some specific equipment – a sound isolation booth for the interpreters (or the speaker!), earphones so that the interpreters hear exactly what is said, and earphones for the listeners – and microphones, and amplifiers, and wiring, and transmitters and so on. Consecutive conference interpreting equipment sometimes requires the same equipment but the consecutive mode is certainly unavoidable in the absence of the equipment.

For large conferences, you will need a sound isolation booth – an “interpreter’s booth” – for each language. The booth normally seats two interpreters at a desk. It has headphones and a microphone for each interpreter and a switching box to control the flow of audio signals to and from the interpreters.

The audio technician who sets up and/or runs the public address equipment ordinarily will also operate the audio feed to the booth. There are several firms in Vancouver and throughout western Canada and USA that supply all of this equipment.

For small meetings and open-air events, The Language Bureau has portable interpreter equipment – a transmitter and microphone for the interpreter and receiver and headphones for each listener – very similar to what a tour guide might use. This equipment is ideal for field trips to factories, fisheries, football fields, and the like.

The participants can walk around in an unstructured way with the only restraint being that the interpreter has to stay close to the speaker. We originally acquired conference translator equipment in our court interpreting practice and found that it works very well for small groups – indoors and out. We can accommodate a group of up to thirty listeners.

If your meeting is in a large room we can install a portable “table top booth” and switch box. We can feed audio to the booth either by plugging it into your existing sound system or by using our own wireless sound feed apparatus. This system is ideal if you have, for example, a couple of dozen Spanish-speaking delegates mixed into a couple of hundred English speakers. Both groups will be able to follow your proceedings equally. When a Spanish speaker asks a question, the interpreter switches into consecutive mode.

Two questions arise

Question 1: Why not just use consecutive mode for everything?

Answer: Consecutive interpreting almost exactly doubles the length of time required to deliver a session and it disrupts the smooth flow of information and nuance to the listeners (in both languages).

Question 2: Why not just use simo mode all the time?
Answer: Simultaneous interpreting is expensive – a minimum of two and often three highly skilled interpreters and thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment to be rented, rigged, operated and then struck by a team of audio specialists.