How to Plan for a Multilingual Event

By Carolyn Heinze, September 8, 2016

In today’s global village, it’s likely one of your events will involve attendees or presenters who don’t speak English. Here are some things to consider when planning a multilingual event and tips from Marcela Lopez, president of Spanish Solutions Language Services, on working with interpreters.

Consecutive vs. Simultaneous Approach

In a consecutive approach to interpretation, the presenter speaks for a bit and then pauses while the interpreter translates what he or she has just said. While this method may be suitable for a smaller multilingual event, it can be time-consuming and make a speech sound stilted. Simultaneous interpretation, as the name suggests, happens at the same time the presenter is speaking through the use of assistive listening technology.

Who Interprets

While their offerings vary, language services firms such as Global Language Solutions generally provide both interpretation and translation of written materials like event brochures, agendas, etc. Some will also arrange equipment rentals, and a few have their own inventory.

How It Works

Because simultaneous translation is a significant undertaking, there are generally two interpreters per language who work in shifts of 20 to 30 minutes (sometimes less, depending on the technicality of the presentations). A basic setup for simultaneous interpretation of one language involves the following:

  • A fully enclosed, soundproof booth (or a tabletop booth for a smaller multilingual event) to house the interpreters
  • An interpreter console, which is a base station outfitted with a gooseneck microphone that the interpreters speak into
  • A headset for the interpreter so he or she can hear the presenter and receiver headsets for meeting participants
  • Transmission equipment, which could be achieved via radio frequency, infrared signals or, in some cases, wireless transmission. (Vendors manufacturing assistive listening systems for language interpretation include Listen Technologies, Media Vision, Sennheiser and Williams Sound.)
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