The ATA Chronicle - July/August 2020 - 27

working with another interpreter
becomes a hassle. Interpreters have a
chat function available to communicate
with their mates working remotely, but
this forces them to allocate a portion
of their attention to technical aspects
beyond their control. This may impair
their delivery process and lead to
increased cognitive load and fatigue.
Technical Support and Work Setting:
The fact of not working in a controlled
environment means interpreters also
have to undertake certain technical
tasks. RSI platforms provide remote
technical support from a technician
located somewhere in the world. But
again, like a pilot, while you call the
air traffic control tower for assistance
you have to continue flying the aircraft.
Maybe the pilot can place the airplane
on autopilot for a while, but the
interpreter cannot do so with a live
event. So, if a technical difficulty arises
(e.g., power outage, connectivity failure,
poor video or audio feed, etc.), the
interpreter will have to add yet another
task while trying to keep on providing
the service.

In simultaneous interpreting, sound
input is the interpreter's most
important source of information.

Interpreters are also in charge of the
work setup, which entails securing a
soundproof setting and having the right
equipment in place, which means a
top-notched computer, ISO-compliant
headsets with built-in microphones
and noise-canceling features, preferably
more than one screen, a hardwired
Ethernet 15 Mpbs internet connection
(or better), and last but not least, a good
command of the platform to be used.
Handover and Relay Restrictions:
Most vendors provide handover and
relay functionalities. However, in reality,
switching turns on these platforms is
not as seamless as it should be and
can create rendition gaps. Perfect
coordination between the interpreters
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is then required to mute and unmute
microphones at the exact moment. In
a booth setting, this is done almost
automatically since consoles turn on
and off by default. The same applies
to relay functions that are available
on some platforms. However, these
functions don't yet work as smoothly as
they should and can seriously hinder
the rendition of those interpreters
depending on the relay output.
Latency: Latency is a measurement of
roundtrip time (RTT) for a packet of
data, or the number of milliseconds it
takes a packet to travel to a destination
(server) and back again. In simultaneous
interpreting, sound input is the
interpreter's most important source of
information. The image of the speaker
and of all visual materials used in the
conference is almost as important. New
technologies allowing for different
forms of audio and video signals are
now being used increasingly to transmit
sound and images to interpreters.
Their quality determines the working
conditions of the interpreters.
Pursuant to ISO standards,
image and sound must arrive at the
interpreter's screen and headphones
within 500 milliseconds (0.5 second)
of being produced at the source. On
the other hand, latency between the
original speech and the reception
of simultaneous interpreting by the
audience should not exceed 1,000
milliseconds (0.1 second). Not all
platforms provide the right latency
levels and sometimes deliver out-of-sync
audio, which can be rather disturbing
as it forces the interpreter to choose
between the audio and video feed for
concentration purposes.
Acoustic Shock: The International
Telecommunication Union and the
European Telecommunications Standards
Institute define acoustic shock as: "Any
temporary or permanent disorder of the
ear or auditory nervous system caused
by an abrupt and unexpected
increase of the acoustic pressure in a
telecommunication system."
Unlike professional interpreter
consoles, which are fitted with acoustic
shock protection functions to modulate

the volume whenever the input volume
suddenly shoots up, interpreters using
RSI platforms have no control over
peak loads that can result in acoustic
shock. Using headsets with noisecanceling or noise limiting functions
is one way interpreters can protect
their hearing. However, there's nothing
they can do about the audio feed
they receive. Therefore, knowing the
technical specifications of each platform
before accepting an assignment is of
paramount importance to protect one
of the most valuable assets interpreters
have-their ears.

Some RSI platforms work
better than others but none
of them is entirely errorfree yet and need further
development to come close to
the efficiency of traditional
interpreting equipment.

WHAT ABOUT INTERPRETING
USING ZOOM?
I would like to dedicate a few words to
the "new kid on the block." Everybody
knows Zoom is a meeting platform
that's being widely used for interpreting
purposes mainly for cost reasons. Zoom
only allows for the interpreter to be
assigned the role of interpreter rather
than that of host or participant, and it
doesn't support any other interpreting
functions such as handover or relay
features. The interpreter depends
entirely on the video and audio feed
provided by other participants. This can
be problematic since some participants
may be using a poor internet connection
and introducing all kinds of artifacts
into the communication such as
blocking, freezing, blurring, jerkiness,
and out-of-sync audio, not to mention
overlapping conversations, people not
muting their microphones, or using
their computer microphones and
American Translators Association

27


http://www.atanet.org

The ATA Chronicle - July/August 2020

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