Frequently asked questions – and our answers

What is simultaneous interpreting?

You’ll be familiar with this form of interpreting from conferences and congresses. Speeches and presentations are interpreted simultaneously, i.e., while they are being given. Interpreters work in teams of two or three using interpreters’ booths and associated equipment. Simultaneous interpreting ensures precision and saves time as it conveys what is being said without delay – well, simultaneously. 

“Whispering” is another form of simultaneous interpreting. This is where interpreters sit directly behind the person requiring interpretation and whisper into their ear. No equipment is necessary and experienced interpreters can deliver good results. Be aware, though, that whispering can be irritating for others in the audience, that, depending on the acoustics, the interpreters may not always properly hear what the speaker is saying, and that this method is not suitable for more than two listeners.

What is consecutive interpreting?

This form of interpreting is common during negotiations, site visits or informal gatherings. Interpreting takes place in consecutive blocks, where the speaker talks first and then the interpreter. Interpreters use a special technique for taking notes which is taught at university. No equipment is needed other than pen and paper – and some patience on the part of the audience.

What is speech-to-text reporting?

Speech-to-text reporting enables hearing-impaired or deaf people to more fully participate in society. Speech-to-text interpreters translate the spoken word into written text, either via keyboard or a special voice recognition software. The text is presented to the hearing-impaired person in real time on a monitor (tablet, mobile phone or similar), so that they can read along with what is being said without delay. Speech-to-text reporting can be used during both physical and online meetings.

What’s the difference between interpreting and translating?

It’s like the difference between making a phone call and writing a letter. Interpreting is about the spoken word while a translation is always written.

What is Remote Simultaneous Interpreting (RSI)?

Conferences, meetings and other events are increasingly taking place online. A suite of technical solutions ensure that communication can still take place in several languages. RSI uses so-called interpreting hubs which can be temporary or permanent. Hubs allow audio and video transmission and make it possible for interpreters to cover remote events almost like in real life.

How much do interpreters cost?  

Every event is different, meaning it is impossible to give a pat answer. We’ll gladly talk prices once we know what kind of event you are planning and what type of interpreting you might need.

Why are there no hourly rates for interpreters?

An hourly rate for interpreting is like buying half an apple. Every event is associated with a lot of preparation work, never mind our other regular language and office work. Day rates and reduced day rates ensure this additional work behind the scenes is covered by a fair price.

Are there any other costs on top of the day rate?

When working outside of Berlin, there may be travel and subsistence costs. We also charge a fee to cover any extra travel time making up for time that could otherwise be spent working). We always do our best to find reasonable solutions – making sure these costs are kept to a minimum.

Why do interpreters always work in a team?

Simultaneous interpreting is challenging work that requires a lot of concentration. It’s impossible to keep this up for hours and still do a good job. We also work in teams to have someone jot down numbers and names or anything that is read out too quickly for us (and often also for others) to follow. And of course, there’s always the possibility of a cough or sneeze, so it’s handy to have someone next to you who can quickly take over.

Why do interpreters work in booths?

One reason is the interpreting equipment that’s installed in a booth. Another is the conference participants. In most conference settings, there’s the voice of the speaker plus some background noise from the people in the audience. No-one will enjoy the event if, on top of all this, there’s also the voice of an interpreter to contend with (see Simultaneous interpreting / whispering).

Why should speakers wear a headset during online events?

We do appreciate that headsets can wreak havoc on a carefully arranged hairstyle. But internet connections aren’t always listener friendly, and bad audio means a lot of information is lost:  If interpreters have to concentrate on making out the words, following the actual content becomes much harder. A headset also indicates quite clearly that the event is more than casually streaming content from a cozy sofa.   

Why do interpreters need to see the speaker?

Communication not only relies on voice. There’s also body language, facial expressions and gestures. This always becomes apparent when we don’t see the speaker and might turn an ironic comment into a deadly serious observation.

What do interpreters need to prepare for an event?

Interpreters effectively need the same material to prepare for the event as the participants themselves. It already helps if you send us a copy of the invitation – in good time – as this already provides an overview of the speakers and the topics to be covered and speakers. We also appreciate a list of participants, abstracts or the CVs of any speakers and welcome any other background material that helps us understand the topic of the event. We’ll be super happy if you can also let us have any manuscripts or ppts that will be presented – ideally before the event and not afterwards.

What is mobile interpreting equipment and when can it be used?

Mobile interpreting equipment consists of a hand-held microphone which is used by the interpreter and headsets which are worn by the listeners. It’s really a tour guide system that is not originally meant for interpreting, but it can be used for this purpose in certain circumstances. We’ll gladly advise you on when a tour guide system makes sense and when it’s best avoided.

Is RSI the same as “normal” simultaneous interpreting?

What’s normal these days… The process is the same but the circumstances couldn’t be more different. Remote simultaneous interpreting needs additional hardware – such as headsets for everyone listening (see Why should speakers wear headsets during online events) – an online platform that supports interpreting, and a little patience and understanding on the part of everyone involved. For various reasons the sound quality isn’t always great during online events yet being able to hear properly is everything for us – hence our insistence on suitable equipment.

What is a hub, and how does it benefit you as a customer?

The main thing is you no longer have to worry about technology you may not be familiar with. Hubs are offered by high-end equipment providers; they are designed for online interpreting and can cater for many languages. Hubs are equipped with the usual booths and have trained technicians looking after the interpreters just like in a real-life setting. The technicians also ensure that streaming is at its best in both directions and that any interferences are kept to a minimum. Another advantage is that a hub can be anywhere and does not need to be close to the conference venue.