Speaking Worlds

Mariana's blog about
interpretation and translation

The Future is Now

Remote interpreting is not new. In the past 10 years, many interpreters have been given the chance to work online, or remotely. It has mainly involved consecutive interpreting, over the phone or on Skype. Consecutive has never been my favourite form of interpreting, since it involves allowing for pauses in the speaker's speech so that the interpreter may then repeat what has been said in the target language. Consecutive interpreting is therefore an exercise in memory, and effective note-taking. I, however, much prefer the real time or simultaneous interpreting, which remains, in my opinion, the most faithful and direct form of interpretation. Yet, how can we expect to deliver simultaneously over a phone line? The need to pause to listen to the message forces us to do consecutive work, the conversations become longer, the flow of communication is constantly interrupted and the quality of the sound – which is exceedingly important – often leaves much to be desired. All too often, remote interpreting represents a very stressful situation for everyone involved.

However, a couple of weeks ago, I had the chance of being part of what I can only call a futuristic and modern experience. In quite an international setting, I worked from the comfort of my office in Budapest, Hungary as a simultaneous French interpreter sharing a virtual booth with another simultaneous interpreter based in England, for a conference based in Switzerland on a platform live in Denmark. (!!!)


The week-long event was possible thanks to the platform in question, developed by VoiceBoxer, a Copenhagen based company. Not only did the interpreters have eyes on the conference room the whole time, which allowed us to see the speakers and to feel much closer to the event instead of disconnected and removed from it, we were also able to chat between ourselves, helping each other with terminology, keeping track of time, and also creating the human bond that is so essential to all booth mates in the interpreting world.

A few improvements could be made, of course. We suggested, for example, that a small sound indicating that a message has been received in the interpreter's chat would be useful. I can also think of an "in-the-booth" sort of stopwatch to keep track of time, but this is typical of the spoiled-age we live in, in which our expectations from technology have no limits and we want and demand everything from it. As it is now, the VoiceBoxer platform is perfect. It even affords us luxuries we can only dream about in the real world, like the "slow-down" button we can press when speakers forget they are being interpreted and speak at record-breaking speed. Ideally, the speaker notices and slows down... Ideally!

So, not only am I ready for the next opportunity to remote interpret, I am truly looking forward to it!



Mariana Hernandez, English, French and Spanish interpreter and translator My name is Mariana Hernandez; I am a freelance conference interpreter and translator working in English, French and Spanish. I was born and I grew up in Paris, France. Later in life I moved with my family to Latin America, where I eventually started my career, working with international NGOs, United Nations agencies, and private and public sector stakeholders in developing countries. This blog speaks of my work, and the many humanist topics which are close to my heart.



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