Translation Equipment FAQ - Simultaneous translation Guide

Translation Equipment FAQ

Here you can learn about translation equipment:

What is simultaneous interpretation, what type of equipment you need and how to configure a simultaneous interpretation system meeting your needs and budget. Simply click on the question of your interest to view the answer. The first question is already displayed.


What is simultaneous interpretation (also referred to as Simultaneous Translation)?

When an audience (be it at a congress, meeting or conference) is composed of a group of people speaking two or more different languages, professional interpreters may be required to assist in communication across languages.


With the assistance of special equipment, the interpreter listens to the speaker express the original message (source language) and immediately renders the translation in the language required by the audience (target language), with very little delay. The interpreter speaks into a microphone that is either plugged into an interpreter console or connected directly to a wireless FM or infrared transmitter. Each language interpreted is transmitted through a different channel. Each participant in the audience uses a wireless receiver with headphones that is tuned into the appropriate channel for the language they choose.


This work demands a big mental effort and for this reason simultaneous interpreters usually work in pairs and switch every 20 minutes or so.

Are there any devices that automatically translate from one language to another?
Not really. An accurate interpretation requires understanding of the context and the idiomatic expressions pertaining to each language. To date, only a professional interpreter is capable of doing an effective job with the minimum possible delay.
What types of systems are available for simultaneous interpretation?


There are three kinds of systems:


1. FM systems are the most popular equipment for simultaneous interpretation since they require minimum installation procedures and are also the most affordable. Both, transmitters and receivers use a frequency range of 72-76 Mhz. in most of the Americas. These frequencies are out of the range of commercial FM stations, therefore, requiring special FM equipment. The transmitting range is between 150 and 1500 feet depending on the transmitters and antennas. These simultaneous interpretation systems are easily expandable by adding as many receivers as needed, the only limitation being the coverage area of the transmitter. FM systems have the ability to pass through walls. Another characteristic of FM systems is that one transmitter per language is required. Within FM systems, you can find portable transmitters (also called tour-guide transmitters) that run on batteries and table transmitters that are mostly used for events where the interpreter does not need to move around. Table transmitters allow for up to eight simultaneous languages in one room in the frequency range of 72-76 Mhz.


2. Infrared systems (IR) are frequently used for confidential meetings since IR signals don’t pass through walls, and/or when there is a need to use more than 6-8 channels in one room. This technology is similar to the one used with remote controls. The transmitter panel and the receiver should be in the line of sight. This means that you need to carefully mount enough panels in the room to cover the whole area. Larger areas require more panels. Some infrared systems require additional panels according to the total amount of channels (languages) to be used. In the case of infrared systems, generally only one multi-channel transmitter (modulator) is required per system.


3. Wired systems are suitable for permanent installations like parliaments, where other features are required such as voting, microphones, attendance registration, etc.

What type of simultaneous interpretation system do I need?

By answering the questions below you will be able to decide on the best system for your needs:


1) Do I need portable transmitters (that run on batteries) or table (stationary) transmitters?


The difference between stationary and portable transmitters is that portable transmitters use batteries, while stationary transmitters are plugged into an electrical outlet. Both can be transported easily, but portable transmitters allow you to work in environments where the interpreter must move around, for example, guided tours of a facility, sightseeing tours, etc. On the other hand, stationary transmitters are generally more powerful and have better and larger coverage compared to portable transmitters. Portable transmitters typically have a range of up to 150’ (45 m) while stationary transmitters have a range of up to 500 or 1500’ feet (150 - 450 m) depending on the antenna. Stationary transmitters are ideal for auditoriums, stadiums, theaters, churches, conference rooms or other large venues where superior coverage is essential.
2) Do I need two-way interpretation, such as English into Spanish and Spanish into English?


Two-way interpretation is used when the language spoken in the room changes and interpretation must be carried out to and from a language. If the audience is made up of both English and Spanish speakers, the Spanish speakers will need translation when a speaker speaks in English, and the English speakers will need translation when a speaker speaks in Spanish. If you use two-way interpretation, you will first need multi-channel receivers. There can be just one interpreter, but it is advisable to use two transmitters, one for each language. Most of the times, the same interpreter translates to and from the foreign language. In order to facilitate the interpreters’ job, it’s advisable to use an interpreter console.

3) Into how many target languages do I need the interpretation?


If it is into only one, which means you answered “no” to the previous question, then you can consider using a single transmitter but it is always advisable to utilize multi-channel receivers to have the opportunity to easily select any frequency in case you have the need to change the selected frequency. Multi-channel receivers also allow you to expand the system in the future if you need to incorporate more languages. As a general rule, you need as many transmitters as languages per system. In addition, multi-channel receivers can be used for assistive listening in compliance with ADA (American with Disabilities Act).

4) Do I need to use multiple rooms simultaneously?


If you are using three rooms with two target languages per room utilizing FM technology, then you need to count on a system with multi-channel receivers (with 6 channels minimum). On the other hand, if you are using two rooms with 5 target languages per room utilizing this same FM technology, then make sure that the rooms are at least 100-150 feet apart depending on the power and type of transmitters and use a multi-channel receiver with at least 10 channels.

5) What is an interpreter console, and do I need one? What type of interpreter console will I need?


An interpreter console is the control center. The interpreter uses it to adjust the volume and tone of the sound he/she hears, as well as to control the audio of the outgoing channel. The interpreter console has controls that allow the interpreter to activate or deactivate the output from his or her microphone and select the input and output channels. On professional systems, the interpreter console also interacts with the central control unit to allow the use of the relay function between different booths and the routing of the floor signals when the interpreter’s microphone is deactivated.

There are interpreter consoles for a single interpreter and dual interpreter consoles for two interpreters working together. Since simultaneous translation requires the interpreter to instantly translate what they hear, and grasp all cultural idioms and nuances, then mental effort and concentration required from translators is immense. For this reason, many translators often work in 20 to 30 to 45 minutes increments, with breaks in between. If your presentation or convention will require simultaneous translation for longer than 2 hours30 minutes it is advisable to hire two interpreters and use a dual interpreter console. purchase Aa dualouble interpreter console. This console will allow interpreters working in the same booth to seamlessly switch back and forth between translation duties, while also transferring all audio and relay control. This equipment will make sure that your audience never misses a word and your translators have immediate access to the vital equipment they need.

Depending on the number of foreign languages used in your conference or event and whether you use one-way or two-way interpretation (i.e. interpreting from English into Spanish and back from Spanish into English), you may need a bilingual or multi-channel interpreter console.

A bilingual interpreter console is usually used for bilingual conferences or in multilingual conferences with one-way interpretation only. Bilingual interpreter consoles also have limited “relay” capabilities compared to the multi-channel interpreter consoles that have full relay capabilities.

6) Do I need single or multi-channel receivers?


Multi-channel receivers have the ability to change frequencies (channels) by simply pressing a button or rotating a knob. Some have an LCD screen and they are very simple to use. For simultaneous interpretation applications, we always recommend using multi-channel receivers for the following reasons:


a) Since each language needs a different channel, in any situation requiring interpretation you will have at least two languages.

b) By having a receiver with multiple channels, the system can be upgraded easily when more languages are needed without having to change the receivers.

c) By having a receiver with multiple channels, you can easily change the frequency in case of issues with a specific frequency.


On the other hand, the only advantage of single-channel receivers is its low cost.

7) What is relay interpreting?


Relay interpreting is usually used when there are several target languages. A source-language interpreter interprets the text to a language common to every interpreter, who then renders the message to their respective target languages. For example, a Japanese source message first is rendered to English to a group of interpreters, who listen to the English and render the message into Arabic, French, and Russian, the other target languages. In heavily multilingual meetings, there may be more than one "intermediate" language, i.e. a Greek source language could be interpreted into English and then from English to other languages, and, at the same time, it may also be directly interpreted into French, and from French into yet more languages. This solution is most often used in the multilingual meetings of the EU institutions.

8) If I am using a microphone can I directly connect it to my transmitter?


This depends upon the configuration of the transmitter you purchase. In some cases you can directly connect the microphone into the transmitter and achieve high-quality audio. In other cases, you may need a pre-amplifier or interpreter console to connect the microphone to your transmitter. Ask our knowledgeable professionals if you are unsure which model of transmitter is right for you.

9) What is the Americans with Disabilities Act and how does it affect my business?


The Americans with Disabilities Act was originally passed in 1990 by George H. Bush and was recently amended in 2009. This act mandates that all public venues offer equal access to individuals with disabilities, including those who have medically diagnosed difficulties hearing. We offer a wide variety of ADA compliant assistive listening devices that will make sure your business or public venue is accessible by those with hearing impairments to make sure you are compliant with all ADA requirements.

10) On average, how long will it take to install my translation equipment?


The average time it will take for you to install your interpretation devices depends upon the number of rooms you are using and the complexity of the equipment itself. As a general rule, if you are using fully portable devices it usually takes 30 minutes to set up and install all equipment in one room. If you are using wired devices and equipment it traditionally takes an hour for a skilled technician to fully install all devices. Be sure to always allow additional time for setup in case you run across unexpected technical or installation issues.

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