Tips for setting up a workstation for remote interpreting
As remote interpreting (RI) has become the new standard in recent times, many interpreters have had to set up a workstation that is practical and equipped with the necessary technology.
In recent times, interpreting has not been the only profession to switch to working from home. With this new situation, many interpreters have had to adapt their home space into a makeshift interpreting booth. Experienced interpreters have spoken about their set-up at the 2021 Innovation in Interpreting Summit, showcasing their favourite headsets, software, and even backdrops. From the correct camera to lighting and internet speed, there are many details that need to be thought of when setting up an interpreting station at home.
Step 1: Prick up your ears!
Firstly, in remote interpreting (RI) a good audio quality is the most important aspect, whether for the interpreter or the listener. The interpreter should be able to hear the speaker clearly and without any interference, but the health of both speaker and interpreter should also be taken into account when it comes to hearing. Most interpreters use a wired USB headset or headphones with a microphone. They usually even have a spare microphone in case the main microphone does not work anymore.
The headset should be properly connected to the computer and the audio settings should be set accordingly. There is a wealth of brands for headsets in different budgets and each of them sounds different to the listener; the deciding factor is personal preferences since hearing and listening ability differ for each interpreter. In addition, interpreters need to become well acquainted with the headset features and functioning so that quick action can be taken in the event of a malfunction.
It is recommended to choose a headset that includes a noise-cancelling function on the microphone itself. Such integrated microphones detect external noise and send equivalent but reverse suppression signals to the headset. Through this countersignal, such headsets suppress external noise sources.
Furthermore, interpreters are better off listening with both ears, instead of placing their headphones over just one ear since this prevents the brain from working harder during interpreting. The volume has to be low, for this is better for healthy hearing. Using semi-open headphones instead of closed-back headphones will also allow the interpreter to hear themselves better.
However, not only the headphones influence sound quality, but also the room in which the interpreters are working. As a rule of thumb for optimum soundproofing, a small room is better than a big room. Next to that, a full room benefits the acoustics as well; things like rugs, furniture and blankets can minimise unnecessary echoes.
Background noise should be eliminated: phones are to be muted and air conditioning is to be set to silent or turned off. The way microphones are placed has a huge impact on the audio quality. Additional tools such as boom arms can also be a good help. There are lots of software available to keep control of incoming sound; a voice booster for example can be practical.
Step 2: Do not save at the wrong end
Many tools can help interpreters make their work more comfortable and structured. Some interpreters may also choose to have multiple screens set up, so that they can see participants and look up terminology at the same time. A green screen provides a simple and professional background. Besides an additional webcam, there are many other tools that help to take up an advantageous positioning in the picture to appear professional during the presentation.
Not only the transmitted image is important, but also the light. Artificial light is the best option when it comes to good image quality and professional appearance. Furthermore, computers with a fast internet connection are essential to avoid delays and waiting time. Extras like a cell phone stand can help interpreters to receive messages while interpreting. Another tip: to write down the meeting-number beforehand can be essential; if there are technical problems, to get back into the meeting quickly.
Step 3: Get comfortable
The last step concerns comfort while working. A good chair and an adjustable desk for height or adjustable screens, as well as a comfortable keyboard will help make your workday easier.
In order to work productively and efficiently, everything that is needed during interpreting should be within reach. Some interpreters keep a backup or emergency toolkit containing extra microphones or headphones, with cables or batteries. A backup internet connection can also be useful, in case of delays and outages.
Meanwhile, it seems that everything nowadays happens to work only with technology. However, it should not be forgotten that pen and paper are important utensils when it comes to taking notes.
Interpreting hubs as an alternative to interpreting stations
A different approach to remote interpreting is a larger scale project by Marsel de Souza, who set up a professional remote interpreting (RI) hub in Brazil. There are several booths available, which can be easily set up or removed depending on the event. For acoustics, they installed two doors to access the booths, which are furnished with carpet and acoustic foam to keep out any external noise. For comfort and safety, air conditioning and a sterilisation system are in place. When it comes to technology, the hub has two internet connections, where if one fails the other automatically kicks in. To take care of the audio, a sound technician can be present as well.
Working from the hub also allows for a consistent environment, where interpreting on location can come with all sorts of complications. On the other hand, remote interpreting does mean that there is no personal interaction with the speakers or other relevant people at the event. Convincing clients to switch to remote interpreting from a hub may be difficult, too, as it is still a new concept.
Even though remote interpreting has only recently become such a common way of working for interpreters, there are already many options available to make it as efficient and comfortable as possible. Each interpreter can choose to make their home setting ideal for interpreting, using low-tech to high-tech solutions.
- Bowman, N. (23.02.2021). Interpreting from home (the best audio gear). In: Innovation in Interpreting Summit 2021 [05.01.2022].
- De Souza, M. (23.02.2021). Setting up Remote Interpreting Hub. In: Innovation In Interpreting Summit 2021 [05.01.2022].
- Drechsel, A. (23.02.2021). How to sound your best from home. In: Innovation in Interpreting Summit 2021 [05.01.2022].
- Green, K. (23.02.2021). Remote Conference/Platform Interpreting. In: Innovation in Interpreting Summit 2021 [05.01.2022].
- Olsen, B. S. (23.02.2021). Setting up your home studio. In: Innovation in Interpreting Summit 2021 [05.01.2022].
If you are interested to know more about our remote interpretation services, please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!