5 ways to help conference interpreters hear better

It might seem overly simple, but professional interpreters must be able to hear and understand what is being said to do their job. I say this because interpreting at a conference or company meeting often comes with challenges and hearing is often one of the biggest.  Here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. Enunciate: If you are speaking at an event, don’t mumble and speak clearly. This ensures that the interpreter will hear and understand you. Have you ever watched a New Yorker from Brooklyn have a conversation with someone from Saluda, South Carolina? They both speak English and often can’t understand each other. If you take the time to speak as clearly as possible, it will help the interpreters quite a bit.
  2. Slow Down: Simultaneous interpreting is extremely taxing. They must listen to what you are saying, retain it, comprehend it, and immediately render it into another language. They must do all this in an instant while constantly listening for the next thing. Speaking fast is a killer for conference interpreters. If you slow down a bit, the interpreters will have more time to process everything and provide a better rendition.
  3. Location: Any kind of conference event, regardless of its size will have some logistical issues. You have a speaker who is presenting and a crowd to manage. Somewhere in that mix is sound and or video equipment. It is also important to decide where to locate the interpreters and the interpreting booth. You don’t want the interpreters to be a distraction or interfere in any way. However, don’t forget that interpreters are a vital part of a successful event. Unless you are using state of the art video equipment, the interpreters should be positioned where they can easily see and hear everything.
  4. Equipment: Problematic equipment or a bad sound system will affect the interpreter’s ability to hear and might also affect the audience ability to hear the interpreter. For this reason, make sure you have a great technician or that the interpreting company you hire has one. Technology seems to always have a way of going bad just at the worst possible moment. An experienced interpreting team will know how to overcome those issues and are often prepared with backup just in case.
  5. Position of the Microphone: Since we are talking about sound systems, it is amazing how important a simple thing like the position of the microphone can make a difference in sound quality. Experienced speakers should know to always adjust their head when looking around at the audience in such a way as to always speak into the microphone. The same principle applies to those little clip-on mics. It is a good idea to test it all out ahead of time. And please don’t tap on the mic; it pierces the interpreters’ ear drum.

In summary, if you want a successful interpreting event, then ensure the interpreting team can hear what is being said. Attention must be given to the location of the interpreters, the equipment used, and the speaker.

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