Remote interpreting ideas providing headaches for EU

The addition of future EU languages will mean a greater need to deal with the problem of a shortage of space for interpreting booths. Interpreting off site via video screens is one solution but it is not without problems. 

‘Remote interpreting’ does not appear to be the magic solution to resolve the growing headache of a scenario in which there will be more EU languages and a consequent shortage of physical space for interpreting booths in meeting rooms in Brussels. There are concerns about interpreters’ working conditions becoming even more stressful than at present.

In practice, ‘remote interpreters’ would be set up in other rooms with video screens providing them with images from the meetings. As one of the results of a European Parliament study, the institution’s research team recommends looking into the possibility of ‘individually computerised workstations’ with 4-6 cameras from the ceiling to allow interpreters to distinguish details and identify specific delegates in the room.

The results of the study show that, during remote interpreting, “interpreters complained of greater feelings of tension, irritability, fatigue and burnout” than in standard conditions where they work in booths looking onto the meeting room. “No difference was found between the two work conditions in the objective indices of blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels,” adds the study. In its recommendations, the study suggests “not more than one or two remote interpreting days per week”.

“Tests show that remote interpreting can be done but it is not necessarily  pleasant  for the interpreters and not appropriate for all circumstances,” said Ian Andersen,  Head of Communication in the Commission’s DG Interpretation, to EURACTIV. He added that  DG Interpretation did not expect to use this technique at least for a year or so but that working conditions would be discussed with interpreters, probably in the spring of 2006. Such discussions would include working hours in remote mode.

“The technique of remote interpreting is more appropriate for meetings such as those with, say, 15 people speaking one after the other from notes and with a clear running order rather than those where there are fast-moving negotiations and lots of give and take,” added Andersen.

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