A conference interpreter is rarely considered an important part of a bilingual event, until the audience looks at the event’s coordinator in confusion because they are literally lost in translation.

This very easy guide will help you get a better understanding of what all the components of the Interpreter’s brain will mean to you, and make it easier to decide what you want, need, and which elements to prioritize per the specific requirements of your event. That way, you will be better prepared to get the right interpreter for your company, and avoid spending more money than necessary, while getting the most out of your investment.

1. Wired or Wireless?

This is probably one of the simplest choices to make, and one that can have a huge impact on the overall cost of your interpretation service, including expenses that might not come at the time of hiring, but during the actual event. In general, if a wireless and a wired configuration are boasting of the same performance specs, the wired option will be cheaper. It might not make sense, since it requires bigger equipment, installation, consoles, and wiring, but the ability to move around space, free of wires is what ups the price of the mobile technology.

If you plan on having a steady conference and don’t need to run around with your devices, consider getting a wired interpreting setup and saving yourself some money, or spending what your budget allows, in getting a more specialized interpreter. If you often need your interpreter on the go, for example, when running technical or practical workshops, on-site or out in the field, the choice is simple: wireless. Keep in mind that you will still have to hire the interpreter if you are not requesting the service as a package from a company that offers a bundle with the devices.

2. Know the interpreter and get references

The simplest way to explain the interpretation activity is that it is the brain that communicates your speaker to your audience. If you want a fast communication that boots up information in a flash, completes sentences as soon as you start them, and doesn’t keep you waiting, then you want the strongest interpreter available — and who doesn’t? You just have to know what you’re looking at when you see the translator’s details, which are most reliable from talking to previous clients.

Basic: Usually cheap does mean poor quality. Most bilingual people believe that because they understand two languages, they are capable of transferring information, in real time from one language to the other, but as they set out to do it, they find that this activity is way more demanding that what they initially thought. On occasions, teachers of foreign languages will sign up for translation jobs at ridiculous prices. Teaching is hard and extremely underpaid, while translation is costly, if you compare teaching hours to translation hours. However, while a teacher may handle 25 kids playing around in a classroom, he may be overwhelmed by the simple fact of having to listen to someone else, while understanding how to explain what they are saying in a different language, without the possibility of hearing themselves to make sure if what they are saying makes sense. In other words, translating is a speech jammer, and not everyone can do it. To the untrained brain, the process of translation takes a lot longer than what simultaneous interpretation requires.

In short, bilingual brains are like computers: Multiple cores can help with multi-tasking, as each can be working on different languages. If you don’t use a lot of programs at the same time, you may be content with just one or two cores and don’t need to find the extra money to get a few more, but if you are offering your audience a multiple language event, you want to hire a person who has not only the two cores that understand both languages, but also the other two cores that allow that person to listen to and produce information at the same time. 

3. Check your memory

Just as the processing brain for two languages affects its speed and ability to multitask, the ability to remember information in the short-term memory slot of the brain can affect just how much multitasking it can handle and how fast it will be. Since interpreters don’t come with a technical specs manual that provides information on their processor or RAM, in the same way that computers do, it is up to you, to find a company that can offer you the experience, certifications and reliability of a responsible interpreting performance.

Basic: It would be nice to measure a translator’s RAM in gigabytes, and by having more RAM, your interpreter is able to keep more data close at hand, rather than having to go looking for words in glossaries for the information it needs, slowing down the entire communication process. Of course, this is not just as simple, so what can you do? Make sure you have just as good communication with your interpretation provider previous to the event and let them know about the content as much as possible. Release all information on the subjects to be handled during the event, request confidentiality agreements and make sure that the interpreter prepares for the presentations as does the speaker.

Advanced: Remember that your audience is watching the speaker but listening to the interpreter. Make sure you find an interpreting company that can offer you specialized, professional interpreters with certifications, experience and recommendations. The interpreter should sound just as experienced as the speaker is, so allow them to communicate in technical terms before the event. This will engage both the interpreter and the speaker and enhance their communication to deliver a successful conference.

4. Releasing Information and Confidentiality

Every interpreter needs data storage, and though that is something that memory does, most of it should go onto your hard drive. This is true for most people. However, a translator’s brain is configured to forget almost immediately after leaving the conference. There are typically a few different options you’ll need to consider in the search for confidentiality, but what it really comes down to, is how you set up your purchase order and non-disclosure conditions with the interpreting company.

Basic: If your event requires confidentiality because you are presenting to your Latin America and the Caribbean team the overall results of your company in financial terms or performance indicators, make sure you have the company you hire, sign a non-disclosure agreement before you agree to provide any information. Although information will surely not be stored on the interpreter’s memory long after the event is done, it is a usual practice (and very healthy to the communication results of the event), to provide written information such as presentations, to the interpreter beforehand. Make sure the interpreting service company agrees to release the information only on a need to know basis to the interpreter or interpreters participating in the event, and destroys all confidential information, once the event is over.

Advanced: make sure the company you hire to communicate your event in a foreign language is held liable for any breach of information that may arise from their participation in your event. Although persons may be liable up to a certain point, from their lack of discretion at any given moment, it is always better to hire a company that will vouch for its professionals, in case this should become an issue. A company that backs up its interpreters is a reliable supplier and usually provides support and warranties that will ensure trustworthiness and a smooth service.

5. Experience and Performance

To make it short and simple, you should probably stick with what you feel comfortable with, as it can be hard to adjust to new suppliers unless you’re ready to put in the work. If you know that the more experienced, old-school interpreter who has been around since before you were born can deliver a clean simultaneous translation of your event, you probably don’t need to read this section. If you don’t know who this person may be, you almost definitely won’t want them at your event.

If you want an easy-going interpreter that keeps things basic for you, check out TR+S Traducciones y Servicios. If you like a little bit more control of your event’s development, you’ll probably have an easier time getting to do that from the first call. If you’re comfortable with an individual who has already worked with you, stay with them. However, it’s worth noting that not all Interpreting Companies are available for every event.