Telephone intepreting: experiences, technical issues
Thread poster: Eutychus

Eutychus  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:33
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Mar 26, 2009

Hi all. I have extensive experience in consecutive and simultaneous translation in the English-French language pair and am just finalising my first quotation for a telephone interpreting session. I am interested in finding out about others' experience in this at a practical level, for instance:

Skype and other VOIP solutions: do people find that home-based solutions have enough bandwidth to do this simultaneously (ie as though the interpreter is in a remote booth)?

Is there any advantage in having incoming audio on one line and outgoing audio on another?

Is it suicide to attempt this without a headset? What experiences do people have of non-VOIP (landline) headsets?

Your contributions welcome!

Eutychus


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shfranke  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:33
English to Arabic
+ ...
Telephonic interpreting Mar 26, 2009

Greetings. I refer to your query on proz.com.

Re your question..."Is it suicide to attempt this without a headset? What experiences do people have of non-VOIP (land-line) headsets?


If you are interpreting a session over skype, using a good-quality/"skype-compliant" headset (which certification usually appears printed, or affixed on a card, inside the wrapped package of the headset when you buy it) will much simplify your ability to hear the two-way audio with clarity and fewer external distractions or background noise.

Hope this helps.

Regards,

Stephen H. Franke
English - Arabic, Persian, and Kurdish
San Pedro, California


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Eutychus  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:33
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Bandwidth considerations? Mar 26, 2009

Thanks. That was my first thought. However, I use what I think is a Skype-compatible headset and I've noticed Skype doesn't always cope very well with conversation both ways at once (incoming and outgoing) - you tend to lose one side. I have a pretty fast broadband connection and I was wondering what others' experience of lag and similar problems might be. If the interpreting is simultaneous rather than consecutive, wouldn't that be a problem?

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Anne Lee  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:33
Member (2003)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Using the landline Mar 26, 2009

Skype is a great medium for talking to my family, but I do not find it suitable for phone interpreting. The quality is simply not good enough. I do phone interpreting on a daily basis for a service provider I can log in with when it suits me, but all conversations occur via my landline. Skype seems to cut out when several voices speak at once. During interpreting sessions, the two people I am interpreting for need to be able to hear each other in order to keep the exchange as transparent as possible, so it would seem strange to split the audio over different lines. Using my landline also means that I can use the keypad to identify myself with my passcode.

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Eutychus  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:33
Member (2006)
French to English
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TOPIC STARTER
With a headset? Mar 26, 2009

Anne,

Thanks for this information. Do you plug a headset into your landline somehow (excuse my ignorance!)?


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Hengky Chiok  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:33
Member (2008)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Always use landline and a headset Mar 26, 2009

I work as a telephonic interpreter for several companies, and none of them allow the use of Skype for that purpose. Personally I only interpret over the phone using land line with a headset and amplifier. My amp has a separate volume for headset and mic. And no cordless phone, however fancy they are. Just a plain regular corded phone.

The use of speakerphone is not usually allowed because of the sound issue and also for privacy.


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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:33
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Can anybody recommend a good headset Mar 26, 2009

Hello there

I do telephone interpreting too and always use a landline. I do not use a headset though as I only log on to the company I work for when I am short of work.

I would be grateful if anyone could recommend a headset and let me know how this works, technically i.e. where do you plug it in?

Thank you!

Liz Askew


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Eutychus  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:33
Member (2006)
French to English
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TOPIC STARTER
What is this "cordless phone" of which you speak? ;) Mar 26, 2009

no cordless phone, however fancy they are. Just a plain regular corded phone.


I'm glad I still have one gathering dust in a cupboard somewhere. Can you tell us how the headset/amp works? Do you plug it into the handset socket, or what?


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Óscar Delgado Gosálvez  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:33
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
landline. 2 - line phone. Suggestions. Mar 26, 2009

Will your client or the other party will be in the same room with you?

If one of them is with you in the same room, you can try to do it simultaneously.

If not, I wouldn't try simultaneous translation. It is very hard for the listening party to understand two persons speaking at the same time, even if only one speaks his language. The same counts for the person who speaks: your translation will probably disturb the thoughts of the party speaking.

I would try translating consecutively.

The big difference with a regular consecutive translation will be the sound quality and the impossibility to see each other, you won't be able to make the speakers stop unless they are used to do this kind of translation or you instruct them to do it beforehand.

I have done this only a few times and it went fine, but I did it strictly consecutive.
Sometimes both parties would speak at the same time, and I had to instruct them to talk in turns to my cue. So you will be pretty much the director of the show, allowing for the directions of your main client (discuss it before you even start the conference call).

I used a 2-line phone.

I can see various configurations with a two-line phone:

- Both parties call you and you place them in conference.
- you call both parties.
- one party calls you, and you call the second party: all three being placed in conference.

You can also contact your local telephone company to inquire about conference calling or multiple-party calling. In that case you only need one landline.

Other translators have reported success with skype conference calls. I would try your configuration first, calling a few friends and checking whether it works.



Most Panasonic phones (the brand I have) have a jack for wired earphones and microphone. The clarity is definitely better.

A suggestion on how to proceed:

once all three parties are connected:

Instruct the other two parties:
-to speak in short sentences
- to stop when you say a certain cue like "hold it, please"
- to proceed when you say "please, proceed".

Good luck


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Hengky Chiok  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:33
Member (2008)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Cordless is a no no because of privacy issue, limited battery power and possible interference. Mar 27, 2009

Eutychus wrote:

no cordless phone, however fancy they are. Just a plain regular corded phone.


I'm glad I still have one gathering dust in a cupboard somewhere. Can you tell us how the headset/amp works? Do you plug it into the handset socket, or what?


The amp is plugged into the base of the phone where the handset is usually plugged in. Then the handset is plugged into the amp. At least that's my setup. Different brands may have different setups though; although I think what I have is pretty logical. Incoming will ring the phone, and the signal is routed to the handset through the amp..

I can control both volumes (mic and headset) on the amp. Headset is plugged into the amp. The use of headset allows for hands to be free to take notes and to scratch your head when one or both parties keep changing directions in the middle of a sentence or go on afterburners at the same time.


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:33
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Comments Mar 28, 2009

Let's get one thing straight:

You are talking about interpretation, NOT translation.

I would never attempt simultaneous interpreting on the phone for conversation. You have to be the recipient of the discussion and pass it on in your own time. Also, one or the other party may actually know a little of the other's language, and it is reassuring for them to be able to hear the other party talking.

In any case, it is important for them to listen, even when they don't understand any of it, because conversations have secondary messages: tonal nuances, reactions, emphasis, which are important, and you may not be able to convey them the same way.
Would you want to shout exactly the same way as an angry customer on the end of the phone? Nope, and your raised voice would not be quite enough to illustrate his anger, neither would your voice tremble when conveying the message of somebody upset.

Simultaneous interpreting would be appropriate only for a lecture or reading, a one-sided delivery, where the audience have no participation, or when the person would be listening to other people's conversation, but not participating at all.

A cordless phone may not be ideal, but it is not necessarily a no-no. You could even use a mobile (cell phone) but it depends on the circumstances and your or your clients' preferences.


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Anne Lee  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:33
Member (2003)
Dutch to English
+ ...
no headset Mar 30, 2009

A belated answer to your question about which headset I use: I have a compact headset for interpreting at conferences, but for phone interpeting at home, I use the good quality traditional phone in my home office. A headset would be useful at times to have my hands free to rifle through glossaries, as I have different scripts for different clients, but my phone does not have a socket for a headset. Also, since I never know when the calls will be coming in, it is not practical to keep the headset on my head at all times while I am translating.

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Eutychus  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:33
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for responses so far Mar 30, 2009

Thanks all for your insights. I think a landline is definitely the way to go and with a headset if technically possible. I'll wait and see if the client greenlights my quote before investing in any equipment though!

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Lourdes Barrientos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:33
English to Spanish
+ ...
So, What has happened since your last post? May 14, 2009

Hi Euthycus!

I have done phone interpreting since 2000, using a Plantronics amplifier, with Binaural headset and noise cancelling microphone. It is compliant will all the phone interpretation companies I work for. Skype is not feasible due to what you and everyone have said. Plus, the companies I have been working for, do not approve of that. Not even of using your own cellphone.
Hope it is going well for you.
Now that the economy is so down, it is a great way to make money 24-7
Hope you have a great time telephone interpreting, it is a growing market.

MaryLou


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polskiexpert
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:33
Member (2010)
Polish to English
+ ...
Tel. interpreting Jul 13, 2009

Hello

I use normal landline (about to buy a proper headset)

I have tried to use Skype but its not reliable. My mum tries to speak up when she calls me via Skype but it does not work! (I tell her we do not live in communist era anymore. Back then you almost had to shout over the phone. lol

I often have customers (LES -Limited English-speaking ) who use Skype when they contact different institutions and the sound quality is very poor (echos and delays)

All the best!

M


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