Portable Interpretation System

by Kathy

Portable Simultaneous Interpretation System

Portable Simultaneous Interpretation System

I too am learning Spanish, slowly ;) but I am most interested in how to set up what is needed at our church to receive Spanish speaking folks. I interpret for the Deaf but need info on how the whole headset system works for voice translation. What can you tell me about your church's system.
Thanks much.


Thanks for your question. I'm no expert on interpretation systems, but I can tell you what I know about how we handle it at our church. We have two full-time Spanish speaking missionaries assigned to our congregation. They are responsible for our portable interpretation system.

Each week, they bring a special case--looks like a large durable briefcase--which contains all of the equipment. It contains all of the equipment for simultaneous interpretation. There are a dozen headsets and receivers. The receivers are about the size of a pager and take regular batteries. There is a headset with a microphone for the person doing the translating. That headset plugs into an FM transmitter that send a signal wirelessly that can be heard in the individual receivers.

Each person who wishes to hear the service in Spanish, takes a receiver and a headset. They turn on the power and adjust the volume. They can sit anywhere in the chapel to listen to the service in Spanish.

With a brief web search, it looks to me that these prepackaged systems range in price from USD $800 to $3,000. It looks like many of the providers of this equipment create custom solutions; they send you a quote based on your specific needs. I'm guessing that custom solutions cost more.

During the service, the missionary providing the Spanish translation sits in the back of the chapel and translates the service into Spanish while it is being given over the pulpit.

This seems to be pretty effective for us for now. The drawback about this system is that even though the translator speaks quietly, other people sitting nearby can hear him. Some churches have a separate room where a translator could sit and not disturb the rest of the worshipers.

I notice that some interpretation systems provide a sound proof room/box in which the translator sits. I suspect that adds greatly to the cost.

During Sunday school time, all of the Spanish speakers meet for their own Spanish language class. Or if there are less than five or so, they meet in the same room as the English Sunday school class. They sit together on the far side of the room and one person quietly translates for them.

This tends to be rather distracting during class for the teacher and the other students. However, as a group we overlook this problem since our greater desire is to help our brothers and sisters learn more about God.

When they comment on the lessons, they do so in Spanish and their translator translates into English for the class so that everyone can understand their comments. Although this method is distracting, it is free, and might be a good way to start if you only have a handful of Spanish speakers.

Another factor that influences the quality of the interpretation service is the skill and ability of the translators. Although our translators are full-time missionaries, they are laypersons who are not getting paid for their services. Some speak Spanish as a first language, some are learning it as part of their mission. Their abilities to translate simultaneously vary.

I hope that gives you enough information to make decisions for your congregation. Thank you for your question.


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May 19, 2012
Great Reply
by: Kathy N


Thank you for such a thorough answer. This really helps. We already have an assisted listening device in place for the hard of hearing, this seems similar.

Thanks again,
Kathy N

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