Using Transceivers in the Bilingual Courtroom

Interpreting attorney-LEP client communications is an integral and confidential function of the court interpreter´s job. Due to social distancing, however, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to restrict attorney-LEP client communications or create unsafe proximity risks for interpreters and their clients. Nonetheless, these bilingual communications can take place with the use of a two-way communications system while everyone involved can speak softly yet maintain a safe distance from each other.

Court interpreters are familiar with wireless simultaneous interpreting equipment where there is one transmitter with a microphone and one or more receivers with earphones. But many are not familiar with transceivers, which are units that can send and receive audio signals. Transceivers are applied in two-way communications and are often used by production teams in live theater and music venues as well as by football coaches and race car pit crews. This simultaneous two-way wireless system uses a frequency-hopping algorithm to avoid interference and is a very secure method of communication. Transceivers come in a simplex system, where one has to press a button to transmit their speech, or a full-duplex system that allows for hands-free speaking.

Examples of Transceivers 

There are other products on the market that interpreters can use, but here are two examples. The DLT 400 by Williams Sound is a transceiver small enough to fit inside a shirt pocket and can be used in a number of scenarios. For example, the transceiver can be set so that an attorney’s unit transmits and receives only English speech, an LEP litigant’s unit transmits and receives only Spanish speech and the interpreter’s master unit receives both languages and has a button to switch and transmit into the corresponding language. Other channels are also available if there are other language combinations that are needed at the same time — provided there are more units. The transceiver comes with a lithium battery (16 hrs. talk, 5 hrs. charge), a power supply and can also be charged through USB-C. This transceiver costs $503 while a headset that can be plugged into the DLT 400 costs an additional $100 to $300.

Another example is the Eartec UltraLITE, which offers a single or dual over-the-ear headset with a transceiver built right inside the ear cup, eliminating outer wires. They provide two-way voice communication and the microphone arm can swivel 270° so that the user can have it on the left or right side of the face. Raising the boom past the eyes mutes the microphone. This system, however, does not have separate channels. So everyone wearing a headset, which includes a microphone and an earphone, can hear everything that is said through the transceivers. If, for example, an attorney prefers not to listen to the Spanish while participating in the courtroom colloquy, they would have to lower the volume, place the headphone behind their ear or take it off altogether. The integrated transceiver and headset costs $175, which includes a lithium battery (6 hrs. talk, 3 hrs. charge). A power supply is sold separately for $30. The Eartec UL3S, nonetheless, includes three single-ear headsets (one master, two remote) three lithium batteries, a two-port charger and a medium soft-side case for $560.

If you have other examples of equipment you have used or have used transceivers in other scenarios inside or outside the courtroom, please share them in the comments.

Completeness and confidentiality meet social distancing

During the pandemic, equipment can be loaned and received by placing units on a table in order to observe social distancing. Removing the foam microphone cover allows for a more efficient wipe down of the plastic microphone boom. An alcohol wipe down of the equipment before and after each use should provide safety for further usage.

By using transceivers, interpreters can provide complete and confidential interpreting for attorney-LEP client communications without the risk of exposing themselves to the coronavirus and without posing further delays to justice.

Sandro Tomasi has been a Spanish-English interpreter and translator since 1991. He is a New York State staff court interpreter and a certified medical interpreter by the State of Washington. Sandro is the author of the authoritative and acclaimed lexicographic work, An English-Spanish Dictionary of Criminal Law and Procedure (aka Tomasi’s Law Dictionary), and a contributing author of Black’s Law Dictionary, 11th ed. and Cabanellas de las Cuevas and Hoague’s Diccionario Jurídico, Law Dictionary, 2nd ed. Sandro has served as chair of NAJIT’s Education Committee and currently serves as chair of the Advocacy Committee.

Disclaimer: This week, The NAJIT Observer post includes a review of equipment interpreters might want to use to remain safe in this time of pandemic. NAJIT is in no way endorsing the use or purchase of the products and has received no payment or anything of value in exchange.


25 thoughts on “Using Transceivers in the Bilingual Courtroom”

  1. Monica Guelman says:

    Thank you so much for your article on Using Transceivers in the Bilingual Courtroom. In addition to the 2 ones you mentioned, another popular transceiver is Listen TALK LK-1 Transceiver w/Leader Clip. It sells for $329.00. It includes (1) Rechargeable Li-ion Battery, (1) Universal Ear Speaker and (1) Breakaway Lanyard.

    Some of its highlights are:
    Fast and simple two-way communication
    Push-to-talk functionality
    Exclusive encryption technology for added security
    Compatible with standard earbuds and Listen Technologies headsets
    Long-lasting lithium ion rechargeable batteries
    Optional Alkaline Battery Compartment

    There are also complete sets for 4 people for $1299 that include:
    (4) LK-1 ListenTALK Transceivers w/Leader Clips
    (1) LA-452 Headset 2
    (1) LA-423 4-Port USB Charger

    1. Sandro Tomasi says:

      And thank you very much for providing the additional resources! What signal do they use: FM, infrared, etc.? Are you associated with the website you list?

      1. Monica Guelman says:

        Hello Sandro,
        These transceivers work on an Operating Radio Frequency of 1920 to 1930 MHz (in North America). The Typical Range is: Indoor 100 m / Outdoor 200 m, depending upon conditions (in North America). Translation Equipment is an online store that sells SI equipment of multiple brands including Listen Tech, Williams Sound, Sennheiser, Enersound, etc. You can also go to the manufacturers’ websites if you prefer.

        1. Sandro Tomasi says:

          That´s great that they operate on 1920 to 1930 MHz — just like the Eartec and WS products I mentioned. I´ve checked with the FCC and 1920 to 1930 MHz frequencies do not interfere with cellphones, microphones, officer radios, wifi or anything else because those devices use different frequencies.

          Are you associated with the store that you mentioned?

      2. Monica Guelman says:

        Listen Talk Transceivers work on digital 64 bit encrypted transmission. The operating frequency is 1920 to 1930 MHz with GFSK-FHSS modulation.

        1. Kim Spencer says:

          Thank you Sandro for providing this information, it is important for everybody to have access to technology for interpretation services that can assist in environments where confidentiality is essential. Monica, thank you for including ListenTALK, it is a great option for one-way or two-way communication, is simple to set up and use, and operates on the DECT platform.

  2. Totally appreciated. Any news on remote court interpreting in New York State that you could share would be greatly appreciated as well.

    1. Sandro Tomasi says:

      In NYS, remote interpreting is being done using Skype for Business, but it looks like MS Teams will be used down the road. Everything that used to be simultaneous in person is now consecutive through VRI.

  3. Heidi Cazes says:

    Thank you for this excellent post!
    I hope more of our colleagues post more recommendations with the equipment they are using.

  4. Monica Guelman says:

    Not with transceivers but an affordable solution in FM is the TSC-5 system from Enersound. A complete 5-person system for 5 LEPs and 1 interpreter costs only $395.00 and shipping is free. The system comes with 3-year warranty.

  5. Thank you for this useful information!

  6. Kathleen M. Morris says:

    Can anyone offer any good sanitizing tricks for LEP units, between LEP users? Clorox or alcohol wipes, or other method? Gloved interpreter hands? Empty freezer bag for LEP person to drop used headset into, to avoid direct contact w/interpreter, prior to disinfection? Use of disposable LEP earbuds?

    Any and all suggestions welcome

    1. Sandro Tomasi says:

      Genevieve mentions something about covers for the headphones below. I prefer to have rubber instead of foam headphones so that they can be wiped down. I also prefer alcohol as it leaves a miniscule trace, if any at all, with no odor once it has evaporated. I carry a little piece of a pre-soaked paper towel in a plastic bag (that keeps it moist) to use for the equipment and my hands.

  7. Alfredo Babler says:

    ¡Carísimo! Williams have always been tracaleros. I used to get the transmitter and make my own receivers when Radio Shack was around I am somewhat of an anachronism. I miss Radio Shack… big time! What you actually want to avoid is looking for “Interpreting Equipment.” Make your search more along the lines of “Wireless Lavalier Microphone” or “Wireless Lapel Microphone System.” Also avoid using the words “Broadcast Quality.” See, the thing is that it is all the same stuff from whence the Corona cometh, just branded differently. You can get pretty much the exact same “generic/unbranded” equipment mass-manufactured in the land of the Covid, for at least 50% cheaper. Williams slaps their logo on it and cuts out some foam to put in a Pelican case with everything well-presented and go all Dr. Evil on interpreters and charge them an obscene margin. Not cool. The TV and Movies oriented broadcast equipment outlets are also heavy on branding the run-of-the-mill electronics from the place we don’t dare speak of due to fear of cancel culture (good grief), and charging you up the proverbial wazoo. (Can I say that? Everything’s so Orwellian nowadays. I guess if it publishes, wazoo is not looked upon in disgust… that didn’t come out right. LOL.) I’m going to give you a link at the end so you see what I mean. However, before I forget, Sandro, dude! I am very impressed by the Crime/Delito/Crimen dissertation in your dictionary. Just by reading that on your webpage sample, I want it. However, the link to purchase it is kaput. Hopefully you still have hard copies? Where can I order one?
    Bueno, lo prometido es deuda. Here’s that link. There are tons of good deals out there. Just don’t think that because the shoe says NIKE and has a Swoosh on it, you need to pay $400 for tennis shoes made in the land of the Kung…. heheheh, all right, I’ll cut that out.

    1. Sandro Tomasi says:

      Thank you for your advice, Alfredo. Always good to do some smart shopping. In the page to the link you provided it says:

      What you get: Receiver,2Lavalier & 2Headset Microphones , power adapter, 1/4’’ audio cable, 6.35 to 3.5mm audio adapter,2 Antenna.

      I’m not sure if the set up for $137 includes a transmitter. Do you know?

  8. Sonia Schlamowitz says:

    We ordered transceivers in Berks County Courts, PA. The equipment was used for the first time in a homicide trial at the end of August. It is a great solution for social distancing and the equipment worked great! We ordered the one from Williams sound!

  9. Alfredo Babler says:

    All right, check this out. I have actually used one of these before at business meetings with high-end Colombian government officials and they loved it, at depositions and private round table meetings. You can get as many Azden receivers as you want (if they still make them, I guess), and the earphones can be the cheap one ear ones with a normal male stereo plug, which is standard in these receivers. These Azdens have a little toggle switch with three different frequencies on the transmitter and receiver. You match your receiver to your transmitter and put any kind of microphone you want with a male stereo plug on the female stereo plug of the transmitter. You can use a lapel mic, or a hand-held one, a Britney one, a table one, whatever, they’re all standard stereo male plug-in. They run on 9v batteries and have fantastic reach. If you want 2 or 3 people to share one receiver on the cheap, you get a little 3-channel splitter cable attachment (less than 10 bucks) and sit them next to each other.. I got away with it a few times, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I still have mine in a geeky briefcase (batteries out) and it’s been there for some years now because I haven’t had the need to McGyver anything like this in a long time. I used to be out there all the time, haciendo de tripas corazón (for decades). I even did some Video Depositions for one client and I would plug one of these receivers on a Cannon GL1 camera, and give transmitters to the lawyers and the witness, and myself. I would read a slate into my mic, after I got the camera rolling and then go sit down next to the witness, get sworn-in by the court reporter, and do the interpretation too. Oh, I have stories that would make today’s critics blow a fuse. This was before the smartphone was invented and Video Depos were delivered on VHS., BTW. But they 100% still can get the job done.

  10. Alfredo Babler says:

    And that auction expired (figures). But no worries, they have lots of the pre-owned Azden Wireless Microphone Transmitters and Receivers on eBay. As cheap as $20 plus shipping. It really doesn’t matter that they’re used if they still work. For the 1-client solution in a legal setting, they’re portable, unobtrusive, have great range, and the earphones can be either thrown out after individual use, or disinfected with a Sani Wipe, or throw the outer rubber cover of the earpiece out and replace (super cheap), It doesn’t have to break the bank, is what I’m driving at. You can stick these in your purse, get a little cartuchera style thing to carry them with extra batteries and throw away earphones, or in a see-through make up bag, so the Cancerberus at the magnetometer doesn’t think you’re a Manchurian psycho. It’s the perfect one-on-one. It’s also expandable, but it gets a little spaghetti-like if you throw in line splitters and extra earphones, but it is 100% doable. You don’t need the $500 Williams Sound interpreter / hitman foam cut-out hoopla trinket case. Look,

  11. Alfredo Babler says:

    Here’s one with 3 receivers and 2 transmitters. Says “Not Tested,” as a caveat emptor, but I’m sure they’re probably just fine.

  12. Alfredo Babler says:

    I ordered the dictionary on Amazon already. I figured if anybody had it… and they do. 2nd Edition Paperback. Cool. I will enjoy it.

  13. Alfredo Babler says:

    Hey guys, I don’t mean to Bogart the blog, but I received the Tomasi’s Law Dictionary from Amazon earlier today and have been looking through it. Sandro, you’re a bonafide genius! I am going to read this thing cover-to-cover like a book, not like reference material. Very impressive work, sir. Thank you for such an amazing effort. Me saco el sombrero. Usted es un erudito.

  14. Genevieve N. Franklin says:

    Love your creativity and tenacity, Alfredo! And thank you, Sandro. The issue of attorney-client confidentiality and the limitations on communication posed by Covid -19 social distancing must be addressed ~ for our part, this article and the comments are invaluable.

    BTW, you can order headset covers that are like small, disposable shower caps (not foam, more like mask material) – keeps waste down. Look up disposable sanitary earpiece (or headset) covers – be sure to check the size.

  15. Robert Zemser says:

    The LK1 listen tech receivers that Monica mentions now have a very interesting firmware upgrade that allows the transceiver units to act as “Interpreter” units that can take audio from another Leader (transceiver) unit while still broadcasting to the LEP. The Leader unit can be placed somewhere where audio quality poor to broadcast clear audio to the Interpreter´s unit.

    More info here:

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