Look Y’all, No Wires!!!
or The Beauty of Wireless Interpreting Equipment

We have a guest blogger contributing to The NAJIT Observer this week. Virginia Valencia is well known in our profession for her training company, Interpretrain, her webinars and her overall attitude towards colleagues and the profession. We are sure you will enjoy this piece and learn from it as well.

By Virginia Valencia ©2017

If I were on trial in a country where I didn’t speak the language, I’d want my interpreter to use wireless-interpreting equipment. With this technology, the interpreter whispers into a microphone while the interpretation is heard through headphones. Because the transmitter and the receivers are not connected by wires, the interpreter and the Limited English Proficient (LEP) court users are not stuck together at the hip.

Here are some of the many advantages of using this technology:

  1. Better comprehension of the original message. With the wireless equipment there is no need to whisper directly into the LEP court user’s ear. Therefore, we are free to turn our heads to look directly at whoever is talking. Because we “hear” through our eyes, observing the speakers’ lips and gestures increases our understanding of the original message.
  2. Interpreter mobility means fewer interruptions. Using the equipment we may walk around the courtroom (discreetly, of course) to listen to people who don’t speak up. Hearing everyone clearly means not having to interrupt as often to request repetitions, which creates a smoother proceeding.
  3. Clearer reception of the interpretation. Courtrooms can be noisy. The headphones allow the LEP court user(s) to hear our interpretation clearly with fewer noise interferences. Additionally, semi-bilingual court users may get overwhelmed when simultaneously hearing the original message and our rendition of it. The headphones let them concentrate solely on our interpretation.
    When wearing headsets, the parties may keep their distance from each other and still hear the simultaneous interpretation.
  4. Better conditions for the hard of hearing. Whispering into the ear of an LEP court user who has poor hearing just doesn’t cut it. With the equipment people may adjust the volume according to their own particular needs.
  5. Multiple court users can clearly hear the full interpretation. When the LEP court users are not provided headphones, they have to huddle to hear the whispered interpretation. Only those who are located right next to the interpreter’s mouth (usually two people at best) are able to hear the full whispered interpretation. The rest have to settle for hearing some parts of the interpretation, but certainly not the full shebang. With the equipment? Several LEP court users may hear us crystal clear, whether at earshot or not.
  6. Opposing parties can stay away from one another. When wearing headsets, the parties may keep their distance from each other and still hear the simultaneous interpretation. If you were victim of a crime, would you want to huddle with your aggressor? Not likely.
  7. Lower disease transmission. Using the wireless equipment means not having to breathe into anyone’s face. This distance protects us (and our LEP court users) from getting sick… and from smelling funky body odors.
  8. A smoother transition from one mode to another. The wireless equipment facilitates a seamlessly switch from the simultaneous to the consecutive mode whenever necessary, without missing a beat. When LEP court users testify and when they are examined, we render the message in the consecutive mode at a volume audible throughout the whole courtroom. When LEP court users are not speaking and when they are not being examined (i.e., during colloquy and objections), we whisper the simultaneous interpretation into the microphone. Since the LEP court users are using their headphones, they don’t miss a thing. We don’t have to lean in towards anyone (or even change our physical position at all) to be heard, which means we stay focused and Zen.
  9. Lower safety risks. Some court users are aggressive and volatile. The wireless equipment let us keep a safe distance.
  10. Ergonomics. I am usually much taller than most LEP court users I serve. Having to hunch over to reach their ear level can be quite uncomfortable, painful, and distracting. After a long court proceeding without interpreting equipment, my back and neck always end up begging for mercy. With equipment? No pain.
  11. A faithful record. The old-fashioned “huddling approach” requires “loud whispering” to be semi-audible to several LEP court users, which obviously interferes with the record. Conversely, the equipment’s microphone is so sensitive that we can whisper at a very low volume and the interpretation is still audible to the LEP court users through their headphones. Because our voice does not interfere with the record (whether it’s voice recorded, or taken down by a stenographer), the equipment helps to preserve the record intact.

Want to upgrade your simultaneous interpreting services? Check out these awesome wireless-interpreting devices:

  1. Exmax. Small, light, and affordable. Great customer service.
  2. Listen Technologies. Great sound quality. Life-time warranty.
  3. Williams Sound. Excellent. Life-time warranty.

Insisting on practicing the simultaneous mode in court without wireless equipment is not the most practical use of our skills. Why not take advantage of the technology available and bring less intrusiveness, higher accuracy, greater clarity, increased safety, hygiene, efficiency, a more faithful record, and painless results to the courtroom?

Portrait of Virginia Valencia Virginia Valencia is a professional psychologist (2001) and a federally certified court interpreter (2008) with over 10 years’ professional experience in legal, medical, and conference interpretation. She holds a Combined Certificate in Translation and Interpretation Studies (Hunter College, 2004) and is certified/approved by Superior Courts of NJ (2005), NY (2006), and CA (2012).
In 2007, Virginia founded, Interpretrain, an educational company that offers game-driven workshops and user-friendly multi-media study tools for interpreters to further improve their professional skills. Please visit Interpretrain to learn about their offerings.
She currently lives in California, where she teaches and works as an interpreter.

7 thoughts on “Look Y’all, No Wires!!!
or The Beauty of Wireless Interpreting Equipment”

  1. Gio Lester says:

    There is a lot of change taking place in our profession. I just wonder about the transmission interfering with the courtroom’s own system. How is that avoided, Virginia?



  2. Nicholas Luttinger says:

    I work in many federal district courts. Other than the courtrooms of Southern District New York in Manhattan, many of them are not equipped with wireless equipment or even if they are the equipment is either in disrepair or the staff does not know how it works. Your article is well written, with a light and friendly touch–not at all didactic or off-putting. It’s just what is needed as a convincer in those courtrooms. I will forward it to the judges and deputies that I work with and carry a copy with me for easy reference.
    Too often the need for such equipment is shrugged off with a shrug of the shoulders and a cavalier, “Well just sit next to the defendant and do whispered interpretation.”


  3. Monica Guelman says:

    Gio, I recommend using multichannel FM systems (vs single channel ones) in the 72-76 MHz band from popular US brands such as Enersound, Listen Tech and Williams Sound to avoid possible interference. This band is approved by FCC for language interpretation and assistive listening applications and does not inference with cellphones, wire microphones, etc.
    When choosing a system make sure the transmitter has an FCC id clearly marked. In times of social distancing, a wireless tourguide interpreting system also helps interpreters stay healthy and maintain recommended distances of at least 6ft away from the LEPs.

  4. I am so glad you found it useful, Nicholas. I hope you can persuade the courts to get interpreting equipment. If not, Exmax is a great investment.

    Thank you, Monica, for answering Gio’s question. Let’s do all we can to implement this great technology that allows us to give users top-of-the-line services.

  5. Barbara Derthick says:

    Thank you. Our court was issued a full listen kit with multiple receivers. However it has never worked well and gets interference on all channels. I’ve called customer service and because of the virus the technicians have not been available to help me figure out what is wrong with it. Anyone have similar trouble?

  6. Stella Kirkpatrick says:

    Please tell me what’s the equipment for interpreting to a defendant who I don’t want sitting next to me. Thank you.

  7. Raluca Droahna says:


    Thank you for this article!

    I work in Switzerland and her we do a lot of whispered interpreting. When COVID struck us, I bought my own wireless SI equipment. My first set consisted of an emitter and several receivers. The receivers had earbuds attached to it, through a cable. Later I found completely wireless receivers, made only of the earbuds attached to the ear of the foreign language persons. I think that this model is more suited for courtrooms, because it gets rid of the cable and thus the risk of mishandling the receiver is cancelled out. What do you think about this?

    Thank you,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *