REMOTE SIMULTANEOUS INTERPRETING: THIS IS NOT A GAME
The time has finally come and last week I had my first official remote simultaneous interpreting! A last-minute event, an online conversation with a scholar addressing Italian and foreign speakers located all over the world.
When I first received the phone call from my customer, his first question was: “Brenda, can we do it? We have never organised such meetings online”!
Of course we can do it, provided you follow some basic rules and make sure the technical equipment works.
Regarding the technical equipment, there are many different RSI (Remote Simultaneous Interpreting) platforms available on the market; I have tested some of them, like Kudo, Veasyt or Ablio, and I have to say they are user friendly, reliable and effective.
In this case the customer decided to opt for online softwares which were not developed for interpreting purposes, but they ended up being suitable to the occasion.
Fine, these are the bases, but what are the pros and cons of interpreting from your home?
I made a short list of what I think are the advantages and disadvantages of this innovative way of providing your professional services.
- You wake up in the morning, have breakfast in your kitchen (and where else in the time of Coronavirus?), you get dressed and straight afterwards you sit at your desk, switch on your Personal Computer and start working!
You may ask me: “Why getting dressed if you are working from the comfort of your quiet home office?” Personally, I find it easier and more motivating to wear the same clothes I would put on if I had to interpret in a real booth at a physical conference venue.
Plus, remember your customers may want to say hello to you before the event starts and ask you to turn on your videocamera: what would their impression be if they saw you wearing your pyjama?
I am not saying you should wear a tuxedo, just be neat and tidy!
- In my case the event lasted about three hours (a half day assignment) and theoretically I could have accepted another interpreting job scheduled in the afternoon. This means, you can work in Italy in the morning and connect to a live conference or course broadcast from the USA or Latin America in the afternoon.
The amazing thing about it is that you couldn’t do it if you had to be physically present.
- Last but not least, since you don’t have to drive anywhere, traffic and public transport strikes no longer represent a threat and there is no need to leave your home hours before your meeting starts.
Besides this, once the conference or the webinar ends you can quickly change your outfit and do your favourite workout session. I highly recommend do some sport after an interpreting assignment, it’s the best way to release your stress!
- Unfortunately, when you work from remote, there is no human contact. It’s true you can see the speaker on your PC, but you can’t see how many people in the room are listening to your translation and there are no networking opportunities: no coffee breaks and no lunches mean you don’t interact with your customer or you don’t chat with your colleagues.
Interpreters often work with different boothmates and that’s why breaks are always a good moment to reconnect with them or to catch up.
- Communicating with your boothmate: in my case (and in this period more in general) I was far away from my colleague located hundreds of kilometers away.
Whenever we needed to pass on the microphone or we had a terminology doubt, we used whatsapp and it worked, even if it was much worse than sitting next to each other and writing down any figures or unexpected words that may arise during a speech.
In such situations there is no eye contact and this makes a huge difference: you can’t see your mate, so you can’t understand whether they may need help and this makes you stay more alert and relax less when you do not translate, or at least this was how I felt.
- Technical issues: before the event started, we did a test with the customer to make sure everything worked and there was no interference.
We didn’t experience any technical problems luckily, but audio and connectivity tests are more important than usual when you work from home.
It is also of vital importance to ask your customer to act as an event manager or chair of the conference: you need someone who can collect any questions from the audience or who can remind them of turning off their microphones while you are interpreting.
Your chair or event manager will often act as your contact person, in case there are some problems with the audio or the Internet connection.
In conclusion, I believe RSI has become a reality and Coronavirus is contributing to boost its use and popularity.
It is definitely a good alternative to cancelling an event or to postponing it to “whoever knows when”, provided you take the above mentioned measures and precautions.
I don’t think it should replace traditional and “physical” simultaneous interpreting though, since there is nothing better than meeting people face to face and I don’t believe it will in the long term.
To event managers and anybody willing to hire an interpreter from remote: it is true the service provider bears no travel costs to get to your venue, but remember that the preparation, the effort and the quality of the professional you are going to recruit are the same and it is not worth saving money on them.
Have you ever hired or worked as an interpreter from remote?
What was your experience? What did you enjoy the most and what would you change?
Please share your thoughts and suggestions, listening to different opinions is funnier than hearing just one 😀