Remote consecutive interpreting

Remote consecutive interpreting

It is particularly during the current pandemic that remote interpreting assignments are surging. While remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) has received a lot of attention, remote consecutive interpreting is a thing as well. In cases where simultaneous interpretation cannot be offered due to technical circumstances, e.g. because the remote conference is hosted by another party that does not offer interpretation service, clients tend to hire consecutive interpreters.

These assignments can have different forms, be it a telephone or video conference, be it working from home or at the client’s office. I have experienced almost all of these scenarios.

When working from home, almost the same principles apply as in simultaneous interpreting:

  • make sure you work in a quiet environment and will not be disturbed; 
  • work with high-quality equipment and a secure and reliable internet connection; 
  • have your notepads and pens ready and only unmute yourself while you are speaking aka interpreting (so the clients do not hear you scrabbling on your notepad);
  • make sure you start your interpretation as soon as the client has finished speaking (as they cannot see you, they wouldn’t know if you are still writing or if the connection broke down);
  • speak extra clearly (we all know how much harder it is to understand someone on the phone then seeing them speak).
Source: Wolfgang Ainetter Instagram

When interpreting a telephone or video conference from the client’s office, there are different aspects to be considered:

  • you should make sure that you get a seat next to the main speaker. Even if there are several microphones in the room that can be used for the conference, you will also want to hear the speaker in the room well; 
  • find out if the microphones will be muted most of the time or behave extra quietly during the conference in general;
  • try to take notes quietly, both when your client in the room is speaking, so other parties in the call can still hear the original well, and also while other parties on the call are speaking, so your client in the room can still hear the original well;
  • clarify if your speaker would like you to whisper the interpretation while the other party is speaking, and if you, always keep an eye on the mute button, so the other party cannot hear you (fun fact: to me, the opposite once happening: I was working consecutively, and once my speaker had finished and I wanted to start interpreting, he hit the mute button because he thought he was done, so I had to unmute us again);
  • for video conferences, consider if you can be seen on the screen. Although you should always sit and behave properly, being seen by the other party might put some extra pressure on you – or quite the opposite: you feel more stressed because the other party does not see you and only hears your voice from the off;
  • as always, things get more difficult if the other party has an interpreter as well, either with the same language combination or with a different language combination (it has happened to me that the meeting language was agreed to be English, and both parties brought their native language<> English interpreters). In this case, you cannot even approach the interpreter before the meeting and agree on the best language solution and who will interpret what (into your native language, or always speaking for your client).

These were my best practices and experience with remote consecutive interpreting. I hope your business is still going well despite the pandemic and you will soon get to interpret (another) remote conference. The German Professional Association of Conference Interpreters has published a check-list for interpreters that helps them better understand the setting when discussing terms and conditions with the client (German only). Although this check-list was for remote simultaneous interpreting, it has helped me for consecutive as well.

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