RSI – Remote Simultaneous Interpretation

Remote Simultaneous Interpretation has become a household term since the Covid crisis hit us all. Despite restrictions and travel bans – interpretation is necessary for participants to understand each other in online meetings or hybrid events.
Online-meetings: speakers, participants and interpreters are only connected online, there is no physical presence.
Hybrid meetings: some speakers, participants and interpreters are present onsite, others online. The interpreters work from a hub, from their homes (WFH) or, as in the majority of hybrid events, on the premises, sitting in individual booths.

Covid safety measures demand that interpreters have individual and disinfected booths to comply with social distancing rules, as masks cannot be worn while interpreting.

What is RSI?
Remote Simultaneous Interpretation refers to a form of interpretation, where speakers, participants and interpreters are in different locations and linked exclusively through information and communication technology. This ICT handles the complete encrypted transmission of the event via a server system or a cloud-based solution, which means video and audio, i.e. speakers, support documents of all kinds, the spoken word in the original language, interpretation in one or several languages etc..
Like all simultaneous interpretation, RSI is done in real time (consecutive mode is, of course, possible as well).
Two types of RSI exist:
• RSI from a hub
• RSI as WFH (Working From Home)

Some standard software platforms are:
ZOOM – WebEx – KUDO – Skype – Adobe Connect – Interprefy – Voiceboxers – GoToMeeting – MS Teams etc.

Attention: These platforms do not all come with an integrated interpretation function, i.e. multiple language channels, frequently requiring the use of an additional, second platform. If a meeting is held using e. g. Microsoft Teams, another platform is added for interpretation purposes.

Please note that when using these platforms, at least one test run is all but essential to ensure a smooth-running and successful event, comprising participants and interpreters. Some of the platforms, e.g. the dedicated interpreting platforms KUDO and Interprefy, require interpreters to undergo extensive technical and practical training prior to a meeting, culminating in a “certificate” or similar form of approval.

RSI from a hub
A hub refers to a locality where interpreting booths and online meeting technology are set up jointly, usually by conference technology companies. These frequently offer such a hub as a permanent installation on their own premises or set it up where required. These providers assume full technical responsibility for interpreting booths, the technical running of the online meeting and ensure secure communications.
This is a convenient solution for interpreters because they can work in a familiar environment, with booths, technical support etc and can concentrate on their actual job, interpreting.
For clients, renting a hub makes economic sense for a meet with many languages and/or an event which lasts for several days – a hub offers the great advantages of data security and technical redundancy, safeguarding against technical downtime. In addition, there is always a technician on hand to help all participants with problems.

RSI as WFH – Working From Home
Interpreters working from home – warning: not all interpreters can offer the necessary technical set-up!
Communication with colleagues, “boothmates” is significantly more demanding in a WFH situation, making microphone handovers quite challenging. The cognitive burden of this type of work is considerable; interpreters are alone, need to watch 2 screens permanently, and at least one, sometimes two chats. The respective platforms all have different user surfaces and obviously, the interpretation needs to be as good as ever in terms of language, style and specialist terms.
A word of warning: some platforms require full access to the interpreters’ PC during a meeting.
To comply with confidentiality and privacy requirements (GDPR), I not only set up a special RSI room, I also provide a dedicated RSI PC, which only has MS Office (excl. Outlook), several browsers, but no email client. This way, nothing worth “a snoop” is available. This PC is used to access the platform and allows online interpretation.
The RSI room is quiet; no doors bells ring or dogs bark, street noises and phone calls are inaudible and cannot cause problems. My primary PC is connected to the web via Ethernet cable, upload and download speeds have been tested, jitter and noise are fine, there are 2 back-up PCs, which I can use, e. g. for visual communication with colleagues and I have high-quality headsets and mics.

One factor must always be considered: sound quality.
Sound quality may be adequate for event participants, but insufficient for the interpreters who have to have clear and uninterrupted sound.
RSI glitches in the Corona year 2020 were mainly caused by event participant’s failure to use headphones, and especially mics correctly, or have the appropriate equipment – the hands-free system from the smartphone with its mic on a cable vaguely dangling in front of you or the computers inbuilt audio/mic set-up just won’t do the trick!
Another issue concerned presenters cutting into the interpretation or, rarely, a technician cancelling the interpreters’ channel…
I would be happy to advise you regarding equipment and netiquette for both interpreters and participants, so that online event with remote simultaneous interpretation will be a success!