To be a true vehicle of multilingual communication, a conference
interpreter has to carry out several complex tasks simultaneously.
He has to:
listen to the speaker and observe the non-verbal
signals of his message, as well as the reactions he arouses among and between
the recipients of that message;
analyse a live and ephemeral message
comprehensively, i.e. both the explicit and implicit message;
interpret the message in another language,
taking due account of the formal and substantive characteristics of a different
establish eye-contact with his audience, using
gestures where appropriate, to make sure that the message has been received.
It is therefore essential to have a direct view of the overall
proceedings, of which the message to be interpreted forms a part.
New technologies open up horizons which conference interpreters generally
welcome. The information society, for instance, broadens the choice of sources
which interpreters can consult so as better to prepare their meetings. Technical
or ergonomic improvements in interpreter's consoles or booths also constitute
Other recent developments, however, in particular
in teleconferencing, give rise to mixed feelings.
Cost‑effectiveness and value added or substracted, in terms of the
quality of multilingual communication, have to be evaluated correctly, taking
due account of the disadvantages (i.e. the combined effect of several phenomena:
the message is stripped of its
non-verbal content; the other participants’ verbal and non‑verbal
reactions to the speaker and among themselves are not perceived;
the screens glitter; there is no way of assessing how the interpreted
message has been received; there is a sense of alienation; and there is no
As instruments of multilingual communication, new technologies should not
lead to a reduction in the quality
of interpreting or a worsening of interpreters’ working conditions.
For all these reasons, the conference interpreters of:
AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters),
the BDÜ (Bundesverband der
Dolmetscher und Übersetzer),
the European Court of Justice,
the WCO (World Customs
the European Parliament,
the JICS (Joint Interpreting
and Conference Service), covering the European Commission, the Council of
Ministers, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the
European Investment Bank and the specialised agencies of the European Union),
have adopted the following
C O D E
Technical annex: applicable definitions and standards (references and
Tele-conference : any form of communication between two or several participants in two
or several different places and relying on the transmission of one or several
audio signals between those places.
Video-conference : a tele-conference comprising one or several video signals which convey
the images of some or all the participants.
: a video-conference in two or several languages with interpretation (consecutive
Tele-interpreting : interpretation of a multilingual video-conference by interpreters who
have a direct view of neither the speaker nor their audience.
APPLICABLE STANDARDS: references and brief description
1. ISO standards as regards
simultaneous interpreting equipment
/ DIS 2603 (revision of standard ISO 2603) for permanent simultaneous
interpretation booths and standard ISO / DIS 4043 (revision of ISO 4043) for
standards describe all the practical conditions with which conference rooms (interpreting
booths and equipment) have to comply. They stipulate in particular that the
interpreter has to have a direct view of the room as well as of any screen used
for projections. As regards the
quality of the sound in the interpreters' headsets, it is explicitly stated that
the waveband between 125 and 12500 Hz has to be accurately reproduced.
2. Standards aplicable to
digitalization and compression of audio and video signals
is carried out by sampling an (analogue) audio or video signal. For a telephone
conversation to be digitised, for instance, the audio signal is sampled 8000
times a second and each sample is encoded on 8 bits, which gives a rate of 64000
bits a second or 64 Kbps. The frequency is however limited to 3-4 Khz. By way of
comparison, the audio signal from a CD player is usually is sampled 44100 times
a second, equivalent to a frequency of
0 -20 Khz,; it is encoded on
16 bits, thus generating a bit rate of approximately 711 Kbps before
ITU‑R 601 (“Studio‑Quality TV”) applies to digital transmission
of TV pictures. The three components of the video signal: R (red), B (blue) and
G (green) are first converted into a luminance signal Y = R + B +G and two
signals for colour difference R‑Y and B‑Y. For each image or frame
comprising 486 lines in the NTSC system and 576 in PAL / SECAM, 720 samples are
taken for luminance, but only half that number (360) for colour differences,
each sample being encoded on 8 bits. The resulting bit rate is approximately 165
Mbps (1 Mbp = 1000 Kbps) before compression.
being transmitted by digital connections, the audio and video signals have to be
digitised and then compressed so as to reduce the high rate of data to be
carried. This compression is achieved by means of a CODEC (encoder ‑
systems are characterised by a difference in transmission time (including the
time needed for encoding/decoding) depending on whether the signal is audio or
video. The result is a fluctuating time-lag between the sound and picture, which
has effects on the synchronisation.
3. ISO‑MPEG standards
(Moving Picture Experts’ Group) is the name given to a family of international
standards used to codify audio-visual data in a compressed digitised format. The
MPEG family is made up of standards
MPEG‑1, MPEG‑2 and MPEG‑4, identified respectively as ISO /
IEC‑11172, ISO / IEC‑13818 and ISO / IEC‑14496.
MPEG‑2 (IS0‑13818) is what is generally used for digital
transmission of TV pictures. Transmission of such pictures according to standard
ITU‑R 601 would require 4 or even 25 to 34 Mbps for HDTV pictures
(1920x1080 pixels and 60 frames / second).
MPEG‑Audio Layer 1.2 or 3, in order of increasing complexity and
performance, apply to the audio part.
4. Standards 320.x of the international Telecommunications Union
family of standards applicable to the video-conferences, as regards audio and
video transmission by ordinary telephone line (H324), ISDN / ATM
(H320‑H321‑H310) or local networks (H322).
is based on a video compression algorithm, H.261, with two types of resolution:
CIF (Common Interchange
352 samples per line, 288 lines per frame
176 samples per line, 144 lines per frame
QCIF (Quarter Common
luminance: 176 samples per line, 144 lines per frame
colours: 88 samples per line, 72 lines per frame
H.320 make it possible to obtain a maximum bit rate of 30 frames a second.
H.320 family covers three audio standards applicable to codecs:
a bit rate of 64 Kbps, offers an audio quality of 3‑Khz, telephone level;
a higher quality algorithm, reaches 7.5‑kHz at a bit rate of 64 Kbps
provides an audio quality, not far from telephone level (3.4 Khz), at only 16
and H.321 adapt the H.320 family to new transport protocols such as ATM and ISDN
broadband. H.310, for example, uses the video compression algorithm ISO MPEG‑2,
which would provide a high definition picture.
has drawn up the T.120 series of recommendations, defining the standards
applying to H.32x video-conferences as regards document exchanges.