top of page

"Interpreter Booth Etiquette: Surviving and Thriving in Your Cozy Cave."

As a simultaneous interpreter, you spend a lot of time in a small, enclosed space - the interpreter booth. It's a world of its own with its own rules, and as a seasoned interpreter, you're no doubt well-versed in booth etiquette. But let's face it, sometimes people need a gentle reminder and what better way to do it than with a little bit of humour?

So, here are some tips on interpreter booth etiquette to make your next interpreting gig a little more enjoyable:


Don't be a booth hog.

Yes, the booth is cosy, but that doesn't mean you can set up camp and make yourself at home. There's only so much space, and your booth partner needs some breathing room too. Don't be that person who hogs the best spot and spreads their papers and coffee cups all over the place.


Keep the munching to a minimum.

We all get hungry during long interpreting sessions, but it's important to keep the noise level down. Don't be the interpreter who chomps on carrots or crinkles a bag of chips, drowning out the speaker's words. Choose quiet snacks like fruit, nuts, or chocolate, and don't forget to share with your booth mate. Be mindful of any liquids, such as coffee or water, near the interpreting equipment and your colleague's laptop to avoid any accidental spills that could potentially damage the equipment or important documents. Opt for keep-cups and bottles with lids as opposed to glasses and mugs!


Respect your booth mate's nose.

This is not the time to wear your favourite perfume or cologne. Booths are small, and the smell can quickly become overwhelming. Avoid wearing anything too strong, and if you must, at least check with your booth mate if they're okay with it. Otherwise, you might find yourself working in a cloud of air freshener.


Watch your language.

Yes, we know you're a linguist and fluent in several languages, but that doesn't mean you should use them all at once. Switching between languages mid-sentence or peppering your speech with too many idioms can confuse the listener. It's hard enough to code-switch for work. Keep it simple and stick to one language at a time.


Don't be a technology terrorist.

Interpreter booths are full of high-tech equipment, and it's easy to accidentally mess something up. So, don't be the interpreter who unplugs a cable, presses the wrong button, or forgets to turn off their phone! We don't need any unexpected calls during the interpreting session. Oh, and don't forget to turn off your microphone when the speaker finishes talking, unless you want everyone to hear your personal thoughts on their presentation. Technology can be your friend, but it can also be your worst enemy.


Keep it professional.

We all have bad days, but the booth is not the place to vent your frustrations. Avoid complaining about the speaker, the content, or the interpreter assignment itself. Keep a professional attitude, and if you need to vent, wait until you're out of the booth.


Be a team player.

Of course, as a simultaneous interpreter, you and your booth partner are a team. That means you're there to support each other and help each other out. If your partner struggles to find a word, look it up for them and write it on a piece of paper. If they're trying to transcribe a number, write it down for them. Working together is key to a successful interpretation, so don't hesitate to lend a helping hand (or brain) when needed.


Respect your partner's role.

Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and the same goes for interpreters. Respect your partner's expertise and don't try to do their job for them. Instead, focus on doing your own job to the best of your abilities.


Stay focused.

It can be easy to get distracted during long interpreting sessions, but it's important to stay focused. Avoid checking your phone or browsing the internet during the interpretation. Instead, stay engaged and focused on the task at hand.


And don't forget, as a simultaneous interpreter, you're there to make the speaker's words accessible to everyone. It's a big responsibility but also a privilege. So, enjoy the experience, have fun, and embrace the quirks and challenges of the booth. With the right attitude and a little humour, you and your booth mate can conquer any interpreting job.


So, there you have it - some tips on interpreter booth etiquette. Remember, being a simultaneous interpreter is a challenging yet rewarding job, and respecting your booth mate and the speaker is crucial. Keep it light, keep it professional, and keep interpreting!


By Isabelle Wannenburg

bottom of page