Simultaneous booth interpreting

I have a love/hate relationship with interpreting. During and after a job, I love it. Before that, I hate it. I stress over it. Have I prepared thoroughly enough? Will there be someone with an impenetrable Glaswegian accent? I’m just not good enough and everyone will know it!! Those are the thoughts that plague me. And last week, I was asked to interpret in a booth with another interpreter. As I have no experience of working in a booth and I didn’t want to let my client down, I told him that they should find someone else. He flatly refused and insisted he wanted me to do it. Flattery is a weapon that I just have no defences against, so I accepted.
I was lucky enough to work with an excellent and experienced interpreter, who showed me how the booth worked and explained how to perform a mid-talk relay: simultaneous interpreting is extremely taxing, so we were 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. When it was my turn to speak, I realised that far from being an intimidating environment, the booth is actually the most comfortable space you can be in: you have access to volume controls, you can mute your microphone, you can have all your reference documents and consult the Internet if necessary, and you’re in a quiet environment, with just the speaker’s voice to focus on. And of course, you’re working with someone else, and I love team sports. It was great.
At the end of the first session, my colleague congratulated me on doing well on my first “sim”. I replied that it wasn’t the first time I’d done simultaneous interpreting (I’ve interpreted in many meetings, in a helicopter, on mountains of rubbish, on a tractor, on a boat and in various waste management facilities), but she told me that what I’d done before, with a microphone and headsets for the audience, was, in the industry, known as “bidule”, interpreting done with audio equipment, but without a booth. It could be literally translated by “thingy”, and I’m really not sure what the English equivalent might be.
So as well as learning some new industry jargon, I’m really pleased that I got over my little boothphobia, and I’m looking forward to my next interpreting challenge.

By |2016-10-18T15:48:32+00:00January 31st, 2013|Interpreting|4 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Irène Guinez February 1, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Bravo pour le courage et cet intéressant article.
    Je lis votre blog avec beaucoup d’intérêt!
    Salutations de Barcelone

  2. Shenyun Wu February 6, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us. Sounds so exciting. Congratulations on your first booth sim!

  3. Czech English Translator - Jana February 15, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Hi, well done! I have done interpreting in prisons, benefit offices and the like and even that freaks me out! Although it’s rather like you say, big nerves beforehand and actually really enjoying it during and afterwards. I still think I’ll mainly stick to translating though 🙂

  4. Mariana May 30, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Bravo Céline! Je suis interprete moi aussi, et j’adore notre profession! J’aime beaucoup votre blog!

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