An introduction to Remote Simultaneous Interpreting

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Remote Simultaneous interpreter

Remote Simultaneous Interpreting, or commonly called RSI, is the term used to describe the delivery of simultaneous language interpretation through an interpreter based remotely. In a classic scenario, simultaneous interpretation is delivered by an interpreter who physically takes part in the event, conference or meeting enabling multilingual support for participants. The interpreter is usually located in a professional soundproof booth at the back of the conference room and delivers interpretation via a console connected to the PA system. Simultaneous interpreters usually work in pairs and switch every 10-15 mins due to the highly demanding cognitive effort required to interpret simultaneously. Participants who require language support can listen to the interpretation through receivers.

In an RSI setup, the interpreters are located offsite and will join the event virtually via an RSI platform on their laptop to deliver interpretation simultaneously. Through the platform, they receive a live video & audio feed of the speaker(s) and deliver remote simultaneous interpretation just as if they were working with an interpreter console. The participants can listen to the interpretation via the same RSI platform if they join virtually or via a mobile app if they are onsite.

RSI Setup

Example of a virtual event in 3 languages facilitated by an RSI platform

RSI has been around for years as an alternative to classic onsite setup but due to COVID-19 and many events being turned into virtual setups, it is now more than just an alternative and in many cases the only way to keep offering multilingual support.

The pros and cons

 
PROS
 
CONS
– Provide multilingual support for virtual events
– More economical solution (no travel, per diem, equipment and associated onsite fees)
– The platform works like an interpreter console creating a familiar conference interpreting booth experience for the interpreter
– Participants, speakers and interpreters can all join remotely reducing costs and carbon print
– Enable multilingual support in events that otherwise would not be able to offer it, i.e. lack of local interpreters, budgets…
– Risks associated with remote setup (internet connection drop, interpreters’ hardware reliability, platforms’ server downtime…)
– Audio quality is not as reliable as an onsite PA system
– Interpreters may find it harder to incorporate necessary cues to provide quality SI if not onsite
– Data security, breaches and confidentiality associated with the use of cloud-based systems
– Additional pressure put on interpreters to manage their hardware and the platform while interpreting

Event organisers should carefully evaluate the pros & cons when considering RSI and consider risk mitigation.

The platforms

Remote simultaneous interpreting is delivered through a platform application where speakers, participants and interpreters will join virtually. The platform allows participants to select different audio feeds based on the language options offered for the event.

There are several players in the RSI market, each of them promoting the use of their bespoke platforms. Features may vary slightly from one platform to the other.

The following article provides a comprehensive overview and comparison of the most popular platforms: https://translationrating.ru/6-remote-simultaneous-interpreting-rsi-platforms-and-zoom/

What does it mean for interpreters?

COVID-19 has created a lot of uncertainty for conference interpreters with almost every global event being cancelled. RSI provides us with opportunities to maintain multilingual support for all of those events that have been shifted to virtual conferences. Furthermore, it creates an opportunity to add simultaneous language support for events where without the technology, language support is not possible (limited budget, lack of local interpreters, short notice events, travel restrictions…). 

Remote Simultaneous interpreter

Remote Simultaneous Interpreter at work

However, it’s important to note that simultaneous interpreters must meet certain conditions to be able to provide RSI such as having completed appropriate training, owning hardware that meets quality requirements (headsets, microphone and computer) and having access to high-speed internet cable connection (10 Mbps download/ 4 Mbps upload and higher). Most RSI platforms have clear and strict guidelines for this and only work with interpreters who comply with them. Some language service companies offer their interpreters access to RSI hubs where they can access all the necessary hardware and high-speed internet connection to provide RSI.

An extensive list of recommended interpreter headsets and microphones for RSI can be found here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-choose-headset-rsi-remote-simultaneous-naomi-bowman/

RSI in a world post-COVID-19

While RSI is enabling language support for all the conferences and meetings that have recently been shifted virtually, it has also extended the simultaneous interpreting landscape to more options, greater flexibility, cost savings and convenience. It’s safe to say that RSI is here to stay. However, we expect large events to resume to traditional onsite setup when things return to normal as it still provides the lowest risk option and is the gold standard.

On 2nd of June 2020, 2M Language Services delivered a seminar hosted by the UNSW School of Humanities & Languages on remote interpreting and RSI. Our Head Of Interpreting, Tamas Nyeste and CEO, Tea Dietterich, discussed remote interpreting including RSI, VRI and the implications it has on professionals.

 

Use the password ‘2a&!#28a’.

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