• comcom interpretation WSF

last modified May 21, 2012 by facilitfsm


Interpretation is a fundamental aspect of success or failure in communication in any WSF and also many continental Social Fora. Terms of reference can be separated into two categories, (1) equipment and (2) interpreters. The following is a list of key items that need t be addressed by the local coordination. It is based on experience of all the bottlenecks and critical points, and on different reports by Babels coordinators over the years.

(1) Equipment

  • Identify possibility of using existing equipment. Is it possible to access & reutilise alternative interpretation equipment (ALIS, NOMAD…); this option guarantees alternatives to multinational corporation-produced expensive equipment.
  • Identify location of equipment and transport. Where is it now? Does it need to be transported from another country? How long will this take? Is there a qualified technician to pack it? What papers will be required to get it through customs most easily?  (This can take several weeks).
  • Source local supplies and technical resources. Will there be spare parts available locally? Is there a place to store it upon arrival? It should arrive at least 4 weeks before the forum, for full testing, possible repairs. Source radios/receivers that meet the specifications of the equipment, order and buy enough in time (This can involve 4-6 months for delivery). Technicians need to have adequate supplies to repair on the spot if necessary.
  • Do not forget to buy batteries for radios.
  • Train local technicians. This requires a varying length of time, depending on level of local skills. It also requires funding. To operate equipment properly the optimum is 1-2 experienced technicians per big room, 1 per 2 small rooms geographically close. The minimum training is 4 weeks.
  • Check that rooms or tents really have electricity. Equipment can not work without. This has been a recurrent problem.
  • Ensure a fair per diem for technicians.`
  • It is also possible to build very cheap simple booths. Interpreters need booths to work in reasonable conditions. The booth plans exist. This requires a budget. This should be done 2 months before the forum.
  • There needs to be coordination between the programme committee and interpretation team to estimate how may booths will be required. This needs to be confirmed at least 2-3 months before a forum.

2. Recruiting interpreters

  • If it is a Babels project, this requires a decision by the collective at least 5-6 months before the forum. The local organising committee should make a formal request if they want Babels to coordinate interpretation.
  • An agreed member/members of Babels should be formally included in the local organising committee.
  • Language is political. It involves taking political decisions on what languages to support for the forum, in order to facilitate grassroots access to meetings. This decision should be taken 6 months before the forum.
  • A budget and ratio of foreign to local interpreters as well as professional to less experienced/beginners needs to be agreed with the local organising committee. (6 months before the forum).
  • Babels will put together a local + international coordination team with experience, recruit and select interpreters. This needs to be done at least 3 months before the forum.
  • Local support is essential. There must be a local interpretation coordination team, not only exogenous “internationals”, it reproduces the “travelling circus” model.
  • Train local teams. This is particularly important for supporting access to local language for grassroots. It means an initiation training course of several hours/week for 6-8 weeks, and involves providing training rooms (class-rooms), and probably accommodation for trainers.
  • Tickets. A) For short flights especially in Europe, most interpreters can book their own flights once they have received confirmation from the interpretation coordination that they have been selected. Reimbursal needs to be guaranteed upon arrival at the Forum. In some cases the organising committee may be asked to book some flights B) For long-haul flights tickets should be bought by the local organising committee at least one month prior to departure. Failure to show up is extremely rare.
  • Accommodation must be decent. Nobody expects or wants five star hotels. But a quiet clean room with access to clean bathroom/toilet facilities is essential. It is perfectly acceptable to expect interpreters to share rooms on condition that they have separate beds (unless otherwise requested). Ideally it should be organised and paid for by the organising committee. Members of local Babels team should validate that the accommodation is acceptable.
  • All interpreters arriving from abroad should know where they are going to sleep, and ideally should be met at the airport if travelling from another continent. Members of local Babels teams can do this, but it requires a small transport budget.
  • Per diems need a minima to cover local food and transportation costs. They need to be paid on arrival for those coming from abroad, in local currency. This involves internal teamwork to count, sign etc. within the Babels coordination team.
  • It is totally unacceptable to have volunteer and paid interpreters working within the same space/forum. This is completely against all professional deontology of interpretation. If it occurs, it will give rise to bad feelings and walk-outs.
  • Booth planning. In order to successfully get interpreters with the right languages to the right meetings, it is essential to have close coordination between the local programme team and the interpretation coordinators. This is a highly complex job, and needs to be done by interpreters. Some last minute adjustment is always possible, but ideally interpreters should know what subject and where they will be working a couple of days in advance, so that they can prepare.
  • Some additional important needs include:

-          local SIM cards & agreed telephone credit for all Babels coordinators

-          an interpreters meeting/rest room big enough to hold all interpreters

-          a smaller room for coordinators to do booth planning; this room must be quiet

-          access to computers and printers

-          paper and felt-tip pens

-          access to internet

* Mutualisation of means: it is possible to cover a substantial proportion of interpretation costs by asking those constituencies planning to hold meetings before the forum to pay for the cost of interpretation equipment and interpreters. This may take away a little from the local market, but it is a way of building greater solidarity for the forum. It involves having equipment and interpreters ready at least 1 week before the forum.