Different Types of Simultaneous Interpretation Systems

High-level and large events involving two or more languages, such as multinational annual general meetings, international product launches, and global sales presentations, frequently require simultaneous interpretation (SI). Here, interpreters sit in an isolated, soundproof booth at the back of a room or in a separate room; listen to the speaker through a headset; and speak the translation into a microphone, which is wirelessly transmitted to the headphones worn by the audience members. As SI is a complex and demanding task, it requires highly competent individuals who can handle the job.

In the Philippines, Lexcode Inc., an ISO-certified language translation and interpretation company, has a pool of interpreters who came from prestigious universities and institutions. They are professionals who have acquired several years of interpretation experience and are experts in diverse topics including business, engineering, medicine, law, and so on. Aside from a team of interpreters, SI also requires specialized equipment that would enable the message of the speaker to be conveyed well to the audience. Lexcode is the sole company in the Philippines that offers rental of a wide range of high-quality SI equipment. Among these are SI booths, such as whisper cubes and tabletop booths; interpreter consoles; and sound and audio components. They also have two types of SI systems, the infrared (IR) and radio frequency (RF/FM) systems, which will be discussed as follows.

Infrared (IR) Systems

Infrared (IR) is electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths longer than visible light but shorter than radio waves. As IR systems apply the same technology as TV remote controls, in SI, the translation feed is transmitted to the audience using invisible pulses of light. The audience then listen to the audio feed using specialized multi-channel receivers equipped with headphones.

The main advantage of IR systems is that they are immune to radio interference. Thus, they are recommended for use in environments where poor regulation of the radio frequency spectrum allows interference with radio frequency (RF) systems. Moreover, they are best suited for use in meetings and conferences where their restricted range of transmission is advantageous, typically, where confidentiality is a major concern.

However, IR systems also have their drawbacks. Aside from having a restricted range, they cannot transmit through solid objects; thus, emitters of IR signals must be installed above the audience level and cannot be covered with curtains, drapes, and the like. Moreover, they are sensitive to light interference and, therefore, can be operated only indoors. Furthermore, IR systems are complex to install, and requires precise and careful positioning.

Radio Frequency (RF) Systems

Radio frequency (RF) is a frequency in the range within which radio waves can be transmitted, that is, from about 3 kHz to about 300,000 MHz. Frequency modulation (FM) RF systems are the most widely used in meetings and conventions because of their superior range, transportability, and reliability. Moreover, they can transmit signals through solid objects, and can be operated both indoors and outdoors as they are not susceptible to light. Furthermore, they are user-friendly as they can easily be installed and operated by anyone with a basic knowledge of sound equipment.

RF systems are also available in several frequencies, of which the most popular are the 72- and 216-MHz FM systems. 72-MHz FM systems, which are usually available in the form of handheld digital systems, have a transmission range of up to 1,500 ft. They offer excellent sound quality, are compatible with existing FM assistive listening equipment, and can operate in up to eight simultaneous channels. As they are lightweight and portable, they can easily be carried in a suitcase and transported from one venue to another. 216-MHz systems, on the other hand, have a transmission range of up to 3,000 ft and are best suited for use in events held in large venues. They are also recommended for use in environments where interference is a problem as they prevent interference produced by existing FM listening equipment. In addition, they offer good sound quality and can operate in up to three simultaneous channels. However, although they are portable just like the 72-MHz FM systems, they require more effort in terms of setup and takedown.

In today’s world, where communication is a key factor to success, language should not become a barrier. The success of meetings and conferences that use SI depends on how well the message of a speaker has been conveyed in the target languages. Lexcode helps in securing the right gear in consideration of the audience and the venue, and in acquiring adept and well-trained interpreters. With Lexcode, communication in any event involving different cultural and linguistic groups is sure to become seamless!