Video interpreter with glasses and a plaid shirt is sitting on his couch drinking coffee. His cat is beside him.

Video Interpreters Say They Can’t Live without These 5 Things

If you peruse the desk of a video interpreter, you would find the generic office-y items that litter the space of most office workers: documents, pictures of friends or loved ones, plants, dirty dishes.

While the knick-knacks may look familiar, the must-have items video interpreters need in order to do their jobs effectively may not (coffee aside, of course).

We asked a few of our video interpreters to share the things they can’t live without — see the top 5 below!

1. Online resources

Thanks to the internet, video interpreters have quick and easy access to reputable resources like dictionaries, medical sites, and glossaries. The resources an interpreter needs will vary depending on the target language and subject matter.

Marisol, a CCHI-certified Spanish interpreter and lead QA specialist at CLI, is keen on MedlinePlus.

“I like to look up conditions on Medline. I am lucky that Spanish is my target language, because I can click on Spanish and they will translate the entire page into Spanish. It’s also a nice resource for other languages because the website has tons of information about symptoms, treatments, etc.”

Related: Choosing a Video Remote Interpreting Solution: 4 Things to Look For

2. An appropriate background

Two people on a video conference call. One person has a light neutral background and the other person has a dark neutral background. Both backgrounds are appropriate for a video interpreter.
Source: visuals on Unsplash

Most of us would love an office with a view. Or at least a nice big window to let some light in. For VRI interpreters, a window could spell distraction.

Video interpreters must take care in choosing their backdrop. One with too many patterns, colors, or visible items could be visually distracting for the individual they’re interpreting for. In addition, too much sunlight behind the interpreter can create backlight that makes them hard to see. This is an important consideration, particularly for American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters.

We don’t want to imply, however, that a VRI interpreter must work in a dark, lonesome room. To the contrary, adequate lighting is essential, and so is a neutral, solid backdrop so the interpreter is clearly visible at all times.

3. Poise

According to Helen, CLI’s VRI team lead and certified Russian interpreter, “the most important aspect [of interpreting via video] is not a ‘thing,’ but it’s the ability to self-regulate and control your emotions, and to take yourself out of a situation and remain neutral and professional. It’s important for telephone interpreters as well, but it’s even more so for VRI where you can’t hide your facial expressions.”

In addition to self-regulation, Baha, a QA specialist and CCHI-certified Arabic interpreter, notes the significance of using an appropriate tone, having a good demeanor, possessing exceptional language skills, and following interpreter protocols.

Related: What Over-the-Phone Interpreters Need to Know about Interpreting over Video Platforms

4. A headset

Laptop and headset with microphone sitting on a table.
Source: Petr Macháček on Unsplash

For a VRI interpreter, a comfortable, reliable headset is just as important as ergonomic seating.

Imagine wearing something akin to a giant hair accessory from the ’80s all day, every day. Doesn’t sound too fun or practical, right?

That’s why finding a headset that fits well, is lightweight, and has adequate padding around the ears is important to VRI interpreters.

Also, even though wireless tech is all the rage, wired headsets are a must. Wired headsets are more reliable as there’s no worry about a dead battery.

Other considerations:

  • Style preference (monaural or binaural, for example)
  • Good audio quality, noise-canceling ability
  • Any necessary accessories, etc.

If you need some headset inspiration, tons of resources are available.

5. Pen and paper

Interpreters take notes during a session to ensure they can accurately convey the messages between the two parties. In addition, note-taking allows for a better flow conversationally; the interpreter can communicate longer statements without the need to interrupt the exchange.

While, in many professions, people take notes on computers, interpreters still do it the old-fashioned way — with pen and paper (or a whiteboard).

“I need just a few [pens] lying around within reach, so that I don’t have to leave the video frame to look for one while I’m interpreting,” states Marisol. She also likes to have a stack of pre-folded paper ready to go, so she can keep her notes organized during a call.

Regardless of modality, interpreters should always shred or erase notes after a session for confidentiality. And since taking notes during an interpreting session differs from your run-of-the-mill meeting, it helps to brush up on some tactics for effective note-taking.

Honorable mentions

  • Good internet connection
  • Professional clothes (especially from the waist up)
  • Continuing education
  • Adequate sleep and nourishment
  • Current technology

And don’t forget about the applicable laws you’ll need to know for video interpreters, especially when serving your Deaf or hard of hearing customers.  

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