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Before you engage an interpreter—a guide to interpreting

Need an interpretation service? You call for an interpreter, state the date and the language combination… and the problems begin. How do you order an interpretation service without unpleasant surprises or additional costs? How do you arrange smooth and discrete interpreting at a meeting or conference? How do you ensure comfortable working conditions for the interpreter—and peace of mind for yourself?

There are two basic types of interpretation service: consecutive and simultaneous interpreting.

In consecutive variant, an interpreter repeats what has been said in the target language during pauses between the speaker’s utterances; this type of service is often used for business meetings, public speeches or formal and legal transactions (it can be performed by a certified interpreter). When organising an event with this form of interpreting, you should bear it in mind that the length of any utterance made will double.

Simultaneous interpretation is performed in parallel to the speaker’s utterances. It can take place concurrently in multiple languages, but it always requires two interpreters taking turns every 20 minutes for each language combination, as well as the use of specialist equipment (conference or discussion systems). Whispered interpretation is a form of interpreting performed in parallel to the speaker’s utterances, usually without additional equipment (the interpreter whispers to the interested party’s ear).

Interpreters’ fees are charged per a 4-hour interpretation unit, or on a daily rate basis for events held in remote locations. Additionally, interpreters are reimbursed for travel and accommodation costs. Specific financing terms are always agreed after establishing all of the interpreter’s tasks. For example, you have to know if you’ll be needing an interpreter during a gala dinner or unofficial talks.

What should you take into account when ordering an interpretation service (and what affects its price)?

  1. When exactly is the conference or meeting taking place? What are the time slots during which interpreters should be available?
  2. What is the venue? Will transportation and accommodation have to be arranged for the interpreters?
  3. Will simultaneous or consecutive interpreting be needed? What language combinations will be involved? Such information will help us determine the required number of interpreters.
  4. How many people will participate in the meeting? How many people will need an interpreter? How many groups will there be, of how many people? What is the layout of the room?
  5. Will you need equipment?
  6. Do you want to record the conference or debate? Will the recording be made publicly available?

What else should you take care of to have an efficient interpreting service organised:

  1. What is the subject matter of the event? Will specialist, industry-specific vocabulary be used?
  2. Can interpreters receive reference or auxiliary materials before they start working (e.g. presentations, papers, materials from previous conferences, draft contracts)?

Interpreters are not machines, so how do you make sure they can work comfortably?

  1. Inform the interpreter in advance of the required dress code—is it a business, casual or black-tie event?
  2. If the interpreters are required to make a public appearance, inform them in advance—even the most seasoned professionals who work smoothly in a booth will not always be able to cope with the presence of cameras or hundreds of spectators.

Last but not least, remember: interpreting requires a great deal of concentration. So always allow some time for interpreters to rest.

See also

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