Simultaneous interpreting equipment rental doesn't have to be hard.

An Introduction to Interpretation and Conference Interpreting Equipment Rental

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Having an event such as a conference that requires interpretation is a much larger task than it may seem, but interpreting equipment rental doesn’t have to be the hardest part of the process. In this guide, you’ll learn about the interpreting modality most commonly used in conference settings, some of the industry jargon you’ll likely encounter while looking for rental equipment, the main types of equipment available on the market, and some of the most common issues that arise for event organizes using interpreting services.

Simultaneous Interpreting, Source/Floor Language, and Target Language

Before we get into the actual equipment needed for interpreting, it’s important to understand the primary interpreting modality used in conference settings and two terms regularly used in the interpreting industry.

The first term is source language. “Source language” (or floor language, as it’s sometimes referred to by interpreting equipment industry) simply refers to the language used by a speaker or presenter.

The second term is target language. “Target language” refers to the language an interpreter renders the source language into for the audience.

If an American CEO were presenting at a conference for Russian-speaking coders, for example, the source language would be English, and the target language would be Russian.

Now that we’ve cleared up those terms, we can turn to interpreting modalities. Today we are concentrating on the Simultaneous Interpreting modality.

Simultaneous interpreting is a style of professional interpreting in which the interpreter renders the message, while the speaker is talking.  Due to this overlap, equipment is required so that all parties can effectively communicate. In most cases, simultaneous interpreting involves:

  • A speaker or presenter speaking the source language into a microphone or headset with a mike.
  • An interpreter (often seated in a soundproof interpreting booth) listening to the speech delivered in the floor language through their own headset while simultaneously interpreting into the target language in front of a microphone that transmits to the audience members’ headsets.
  • Audience members who do not speak the source language listening to the interpreter’s rendering of the presenter’s speech in the target language through their own wireless headsets.

This interpreting method is effective and appropriate for reaching a large audience, especially an audience that may need more than one language interpreted. That being said, there is also much more technical planning with simultaneous interpreting.

Interpreting Equipment Rental Overview

Before we get into the actual planning of the room setup, it’s important to know about the different types of equipment and understand how each transmits.

Infrared Transmitters

Infrared is the same technology used on most television remotes, and uses light from the interpreter’s transmitter to reach the audience’s headsets.

Pros: Great for larger venues and not affected by external radio waves.

Cons: There needs to be a clear path from the interpreter to the audience, therefore the interpreters cannot be located in a separate room.

Medium Range FM Transmitters

Short range radio transmissions that can reach an estimated 250 feet max.

Pros: Small and easy to carry, they’re great for presenters who need to be more mobile. They are a good option for smaller groups in a tour or small meeting setting, as well.

Cons: They may not be able to transmit to larger venues, and they’re also susceptible to outside radio interference.

Long Range FM Transmitters

Longer range radio transmissions that can exceed 1000 feet.

Pros: Very cost effective for large groups and will also cut out most outside radio interference.

Cons: Mobile in the sense that they can be moved from venue to venue, but once set up the interpreter will not be able to leave a certain radius of the transmitter.

Planning for Simultaneous Interpreting

Understanding the types of equipment used by professional interpreters and some of the industry lingo you’re likely to encounter on rental companies’ websites, you’re well-prepared to make an informed decision when renting equipment for your event. But from a logistical standpoint, there are a few more things to keep in mind to ensure that the equipment you rent is exactly what you need for your conference, matchmaking session, lecture, or wedding to go off without a hitch:

  • In most cases the speaker will be at the front of the room and easy for everyone in the audience to see. But will the speaker be standing at a podium the whole time? Will they need to use the whole stage or front of the room and be more mobile? If they do, an FM Transmitter will probably be more effective than an infrared transmitter.
  • It’s important to keep in mind any barriers that may interrupt transmissions as well as the overall size and acoustics of the room. Also, check with the venue ahead of time to make sure they have the AV capabilities for interpreting equipment. Chances are good your rental company won’t offer a refund if the venue can’t handle their equipment, so you may want to connect the venue AV people and your equipment provider for better results.
  • If you don’t have a technician experienced with SI equipment already, ask your rental provider if they offer this service. Without a good technician you are left to your own devices during setup, breakdown or during the actual event should anything go wrong.
  • Know the total number of people in the audience who will be needing interpretation as well as how many languages will need to be interpreted from the source language. If only a handful of people need an interpreter, an infrared or medium-range FM transmitter should be more than enough to get the job done. If the majority of the crowd need an interpreter, however, a long-range FM transmitter will likely be the most effective (and cheapest) option.

Of course, Bromberg has a full range of interpreting equipment available for rental and our team has extensive experience helping event organizers find the right solution for their needs. Feel free to contact us, and we’ll happily provide a full list of our available rental equipment or a consultation to help you decide what solution is right for you.

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