Real Time Interpretation for In-Person and Remote #SaveFoodConference in Istanbul

Article in partnership with Day Translations, providers of remote interpreting and translation.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s #SaveFoodConference (long title: Regional Conference on Food Loss and Waste Reduction in Europe and Central Asia “Enabling the Change”) took place in Istanbul, Turkey, in October 2022 using a hybrid model: there was a mix of in-person speakers and attendees, as well as speakers and viewers dialling in remotely. Throughout the conference, real-time instantaneous interpretation was available from English to Turkish and English to Russian.

English Presentations Translated into Russian and Turkish

All presenters, giving their speeches either remotely from their normal place of work (or home setup) or physically in Istanbul, spoke in English, using their own slide decks also written in English. The presentations, when viewed in Zoom, had a dialog box with a choice of three languages: English, Turkish and Russian. The viewer could select whether to keep the original voice of the speaker in the background or mute it completely to hear only the translator in the chosen language. Delegates attending the conference in person who did not speak English could listen to instantaneous interpreters through headphones.

While I speak neither Russian nor Turkish, as a viewer on Zoom I was curious to find out for myself how the interaction with the content of the presentations would be for non-English speakers. I toggled the language from English to Turkish and then to Russian to listen to the conference interpreters briefly. During the two days I checked both languages, again briefly, and listened to a few minutes of interpretation, noticing that, as it is the norm, interpreters worked on shifts so I could hear a mix of male and female voices. Normally a conference interpreter works in shifts of approximately 30 minutes (45 minutes shifts are the absolute maximum timeframe), then another interpreter takes over for a further 30 minutes while the first interpreter takes a break. Interpretation is extremely taxing as it requires huge amounts of mental effort.

If you have never heard a professional conference interpreter “unravel” speech from one language to another in real time, it is very humbling to witness such high levels of skill. People speak at different talking speeds and, even though presenters at the Food Loss and Waste Reduction conference were aware that interpretation was available at the event, they spoke normally at a pace that you would expect when giving a presentation. Some slides contained plenty of data and percentages, because they included information about food loss and food waste globally and in individual countries, with some comparison tables as well (food loss happens at production and transport, while food waste happens at retail level and at consumer level).

Conference interpreters as requested by their profession need to be extremely accurate when translating figures and there is very little thinking time when processing so much information mentally.

I found the content of the presentations to be extremely enlightening and listening to the speeches motivated me to reduce my personal carbon footprint and food waste further, as I am already committed to do so and have done for several years.

If you are interested in finding more about what was discussed at the conference, the organisers provided this reference document.