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Interpreting

General Information

What Does the Term Interpreting Actually Mean?

Interpreting is the oral translation of a spoken text from a source language into a target language. The source language refers to the language of the original spoken text, while the target language refers to the language into which the spoken text is translated.

Example: A conference is held with English and German used as working languages. If a German presentation is interpreted into English, the source language is German and the target language is English.

How to Calculate the Cost of Interpreting Services

Interpreters charge for their service using a half-day or full-day rate, depending on the duration of the given assignment. The total cost of an interpretation job depends on the number of languages interpreted, the type of interpreting requested and the duration of the assignment. If the assignment takes place outside of the interpreter’s place of residence, travel costs, per diem, and accommodation need to be covered as well. In the case of cancellation, fees may be charged. The cancellation terms and conditions are usually agreed upon when signing the contract.

You can find an empirical data collection of the interpreting rates typically charged on the Austrian market here: fee guide for interpreting (available in German only).

What Types of Interpreting Exist?

Depending on your requirements, one of the following types of interpreting will be used:

  • Simultaneous interpreting
  • Consecutive interpreting
  • Whispered interpreting (chuchotage)

What Is Simultaneous Interpreting?

During simultaneous interpreting, the interpreters sit in a soundproof booth and are equipped with headphones with which they listen to the oral text, e.g. a speech, a presentation, or a discussion. They hear and interpret the text simultaneously, rendering it into the requested target language through a microphone.

This is a complex process that requires utmost concentration. In order to provide a high-quality interpretation, simultaneous interpreters have to take a break every 20 to 30 minutes. For this reason, at least two interpreters are needed for every language to take turns. An interpreter’s working day is defined as comprising a maximum of eight working hours, including breaks. Additional services that exceed these limits, for instance working overtime, are charged additionally.

Interpreter booths are subject to specific technical standards. Guidelines for planning and installing interpreter booths can be found in the ISO standard 2603 and the DIN standard 2603. For mobile booths, the ISO standard sheet 4043:1981, namely Mobile Booths and Equipment, applies.

Features of Simultaneous Interpreting:

  • very time-efficient,
  • any number of languages can be used,
  • technical staff and equipment required: simultaneous interpretation booth, audio equipment, and microphones,
  • suitable for an unlimited number of listeners

What Is Consecutive Interpreting?

During consecutive interpreting, an oral text is subsequently rendered into the target language. First, the source language speech is presented, either as a whole or divided into parts – usually individual sentences if it is about a complex topic – and then the interpretation is performed. For longer text passages, interpreters use a special note-taking technique to aid their memory. Consecutive interpreting requires a higher amount of time and is therefore more suitable for small working groups, negotiations, and after-dinner speeches. It is also used when technical equipment is unavailable, e.g. in court or government settings.

Features of Consecutive Interpreting:

  • no technical equipment required,
  • higher amount of time needed,
  • useful only for events where no more than two languages are used, e.g. Russian – German,
  • suitable for an unlimited number of listeners,
  • interpreter needs a seat and space for taking notes.

What Is Whispered Interpreting (Chuchotage)?

Whispered interpreting means that the source language input is interpreted in real time without delay, but the interpreter speaks in a low voice to a maximum of two people and does not use any technical equipment. It should be taken into consideration that whispered interpreting increases the amount of noise in a room and is therefore strenuous for both the interpreters and the listeners. Whispered interpreting can be compared with a simultaneous interpretation that is performed under difficult working conditions, which is why it is absolutely necessary to hire two interpreters who can take turns. An exception can be made for short interpreting assignments that last a maximum of one hour. A whispered interpretation addressing more than two people requires the use of mobile interpreting equipment. This equipment is not a full replacement for an interpreter booth, but can be useful for events that require mobility, e.g. factory tours or sightseeing tours.

Features of Chuchotage:

  • very time-efficient,
  • depending on the number of listeners, provided either without technical equipment or with mobile interpreting equipment,
  • the interpreter stands or sits behind or next to the person needing the whispered interpretation,
  • is a source of distraction for other participants,
  • usually used only in one language direction, e.g. only from Russian into German,
  • interpreter requires a seat that allows them to hear well,
  • suitable for a very limited number of listeners – one to two people; with mobile interpreting equipment up to about 20 people.

What Different Interpreting Settings Are There?

Interpreting is used in a variety of settings. These include conferences, media and television, courts, public authorities, and business negotiations. In recent years, a certain type of interpreting known as community interpreting has become increasingly significant in the interpreting field. Community interpreting refers to interpreting for individuals or families who interact with public authorities and healthcare institutions.

Where Can I Train to Become an Interpreter in Austria?

In Austria, interpreting and interpreting studies are taught at three universities: Vienna, Graz, and Innsbruck. Usually, students are trained in three languages: language of instruction (A language), active foreign language (B language), and passive foreign language (C language). With the implementation of the Bologna Process, the universities of Vienna, Graz, and Innsbruck have introduced the practice of dividing studies into three parts: a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a doctorate. Due to older curricula, university-trained interpreters may also hold one of the following degrees:

  • Mag. phil. (Magister/Magistra of Philosophy),
  • Dr. phil. (Doctor of Philosophy),
  • Dipl.-Dolm. (Diplom-Dolmetscher, interpreter with a degree in translation and interpreting),
  • Akad. Ü. (Akademischer Übersetzer, professional translator, short-term degree program).

Do You Already Have a Degree?

Trained and active interpreters can get certified by UNIVERSITAS Austria through a peer-to-peer procedure. Detailed information on the criteria for certification can be found under Certification in the members-only area of the website.

Sign Language Interpreting

What Is Sign Language?

There are around 10,000 Deaf people living in Austria whose native language is Austrian Sign Language. This language is used by many other people too, for example by people with different types of hearing impairments, family members of Deaf people, and people working in education or in the social sector. Sign language interpreting and translations into sign language – by means of sign language videos – enable sign language users to communicate freely, provide them with access to knowledge, and ensure equal participation in society. Sign language interpreters are used in a wide variety of situations, such as meetings with public authorities, doctor’s visits, in educational settings, or in lectures and conferences.

Austrian Sign Language is a natural language rich in linguistic features with its own grammar and syntax and in 2005, it was recognized by the Austrian government as a language in its own right. Sign languages differ from country to country and even within different regions of one country.

This is why an auxiliary language, which is commonly referred to as International Sign (IS) or Gestuno, was developed for international events. While this is not a full-fledged language, it still serves as a useful solution to enable communication at events with a mixed audience.

How Does Sign Language Interpreting Work?

Sign language interpreters mostly interpret between a spoken language and a sign language – in Austria, this usually means between German and Austrian Sign Language (ÖGS). In most cases, they interpret simultaneously. As the two languages use different channels, no technical equipment, such as interpreter booths, is necessary. Only in some cases, for example when interpreting on a large stage, a microphone and headphones might be needed.

In dialogue settings, the sign language interpreter should ideally be sitting or standing next to the hearing person, so that the Deaf person can see them both. For conversations among larger groups, the interpreter should sit facing the Deaf person. When interpreting for Deaf people at events, the interpreter should be standing next to or at least close to the speaker. If there is a stage, this usually means standing on or next to the stage.

How Can I Become a Sign Language Interpreter?

The Department of Translation Studies at the University of Graz offers training in Austrian Sign Language for hearing people as part of the master’s degree program. In the fall of 2019, the professional training program GESDO in Linz started again. The University of Applied Sciences in Innsbruck will offer training for the first time in the fall of 2020. A part-time inclusive training course at the University of Salzburg called Modus started in the fall of 2019, where both hearing and Deaf sign language interpreters and translators are trained together.

A previous educational path which is no longer offered was a series of seminars for part-time students called AchtungFertigLos (current course ends in June 2020) provided by the Association for Austrian Sign Language Interpreters (ÖGSDV) (available in German only).

Court Interpreting

Court interpreters or, as they are officially called, generally sworn and court-certified interpreters, work mainly on behalf of courts, the police, and other authorities. Specialized knowledge is required for this profession, which is why court interpreters, even if they have a degree in interpreting or translation, have to take an additional exam and then renew their certification regularly – currently every five years. The job title generally sworn and court-certified interpreter is legally protected.

Court interpreters are authorized to produce sworn translations for submission to the authorities and are liable for the accuracy of those translations. They also work for individuals, e.g. by translating notarial files or official documents needed for marriages. The court interpreters among the UNIVERSITAS-certified members are marked with the symbol „§“ on this website.

For further information on the admission procedure and the range of tasks of court interpreters, visit the website of the Austrian Association for Sworn and Certified Court Interpreters: www.gerichtsdolmetscher.at (available in German only).

Translation

What Does the Term Translation Actually Mean?

During a translation, a text is translated in writing from a source language into a target language. The source language is the language in which the source text is written. The target language is the language into which the text is translated.

Example: You need a translation of a document from English into German. Since the original document is in English, English is the source language. German is the target language as it is the language into which you want to have your document translated.

How to Calculate the Cost of a Translation:

In Austria, the cost of a translation is usually calculated according to the number of lines in the translation. A standard line with 55 keystrokes – which corresponds to characters including spaces when counting in the word processing program “Microsoft Word” – forms the basis for this calculation. A rate is charged per standard line. This rate can vary according to the difficulty of the text or urgency. For certain kinds of texts, such as marketing texts, special agreements are often made. The cost of translations that are to be published in book form or that are intended for performances can also be calculated on other terms, e.g. flat-rate, standard pages, profit-sharing, or royalties.

Special services may be charged based on an hourly rate. These can include:

  • graphic design,
  • proofreading the galley proofs of one’s own translations,
  • editing and revision of texts that have already been translated, and
  • translation of subsequent changes in the source text.

An empirical survey about the rates commonly charged on the Austrian market can be found in the fee guide for translating (available in German only).

Are all Translations Sworn Translations?

No, sworn translations are only required in certain cases, e.g. for official documents or documents submitted to a court. In Austria and many other countries, only court interpreters, officially referred to as generally sworn and court-certified interpreters, are authorized to certify translations. If a sworn translation is required, an existing translation can also be passed on to a court interpreter for revision and verification.

How Fast Do Translators Work?

How long it takes to translate a text depends on various factors, including the level of difficulty and the type of text. There is no general answer to this question. Specialized texts often require extensive research on specialized terminology. Quality assurance processes, such as proofreading of the translation by experts or proficient speakers of the target language, also require time.

As a client, you can speed up the translation process by:

  • punctually providing the translator with the entire source text,
  • explaining the purpose and the target audience of the text that is to be translated,
  • providing software tools when needed which the translator can use to translate digital texts, e.g. websites, and
  • being available to answer potential questions that might arise.

When requesting a translation, please consider that the translator can only estimate the duration and cost of the translation correctly if you provide them with all the information listed above.

How Does Copyright Law Apply to Translations?

Translators hold the copyright to their translations, including the right to have their names mentioned in publications and the right to the work’s integrity. In accordance with Section 5 (1) of the Austrian Copyright Act, the Austrian Supreme Court has ruled that the translation of a copyright-protected text (entire work or portions) is also protected by copyright law.

Where Can I Train to Become a Translator in Austria?

In Austria, translation and translation studies are taught at three universities: Vienna, Graz, and Innsbruck. Usually, students are trained in three languages: language of instruction, first foreign language, and second foreign language. With the implementation of the Bologna Process, the universities of Vienna, Graz, and Innsbruck have introduced the practice of dividing studies into three parts: a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a doctorate. Due to older curricula, university-trained translators may also hold the following degrees:

  • Mag. phil. (Magister/Magistra of Philosophy),
  • Dr. phil. (Doctor of Philosophy),
  • Dipl.-Dolm. (Diplom-Dolmetscher, interpreter with a degree in translation and interpreting),
  • Akad. Ü. (Akademischer Übersetzer, professional translator, short-term degree program).

Do You Already Have a Degree?

Trained and active translators can get certified by UNIVERSITAS Austria through a peer-to-peer procedure. Details on the criteria for certification are available under Certification in the members-only area of the website.

Towards a Career in Translation/Interpreting

How to Become an Interpreter or a Translator

As an association committed to professionalism and high-quality language services, professional training for our members is our priority.

The complexity of this profession as well as its professional requirements is often underestimated. Not only excellent foreign language skills, but also specific knowledge of one or more translation fields, specific intercultural competence, communication skills, and research competence are important requirements for successful training in translation and interpreting. Furthermore, a professional approach towards modern technology is crucial for translators and interpreters.

The vast majority of our regular members have obtained a degree in Translation Studies. In Austria, three universities currently offer programs in this field.

Academic Education in Austria

  • Centre for Translation Studies, University of Vienna
    Master’s Program in Translation focusing on: Specialized Translation and Language Industry, Translation in Literature – Media – the Arts, Dialogue Interpreting and Conference Interpreting.
    As provided by the curriculum, the following languages are available in specific combinations: German, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Chinese, English, French, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Czech, and Hungarian.
  • Department of Translation Studies, University of Innsbruck (available in German only)
    Master’s Program in Translation Studies focusing on subject-related communication, literary and media communication, and conference interpreting.
    Under curricular regulations, the following languages are available in specific combinations: English, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish.
  • Department of Translation Studies, University of Graz
    Master’s Program in Translation, Translation and Dialogue Interpreting, Conference Interpreting, and the Joint Master’s Degree in Translation in cooperation with the University of Ljubljana.
    Under curricular regulations, the following languages are available in specific combinations: Austrian Sign Language, Arabic, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish, and Turkish.

Professional Practice Videos (available in German only)

Arbeiten im translatorischen Gemeinschaftsbüro oder im Homeoffice?

 

Beglaubigte Übersetzung – Merkmale, Bindung

 

Erstellen von Glossaren für Dolmetschaufträge

 

Marketing und Kundenakquise

 

Behind the scenes: Übersetzer für NGOs (Mael Le Ray)

 

Revision von Übersetzungen: Luxus oder Notwendigkeit (Heide Maria Scheidl)

 

Behind the scenes: Mein Weg auf den Markt (Volina Șerban)

 

Behind the scenes: Wie und warum Jungmitglied werden

Certification & Standards

UNIVERSITAS Austria Certification

In order to obtain certification, full members must not only have the necessary professional experience but must also prove their skills to colleagues from the relevant Committees by submitting translations or proof of interpreting assignments and providing sponsors who are certified members.

The certification criteria include:

  • A university degree relevant to the field.
  • At least three years of professional experience as a translator or interpreter with a record of at least 15,000 standard lines translated or a minimum of 36 interpretation days or half-days.
  • For each of the applicant’s language combinations, applicants must submit the signatures of peers who are UNIVERSITAS Austria certified in the same language combination and who vouch for the applicant’s qualifications. In addition to translation expertise and the command of the respective languages, the qualification profile includes conscientiousness, reliability etc.
  • UNIVERSITAS Austria certified members undergo professional development by completing at least two training courses over a period of two years.

 

UNIVERSITAS Austria certification places the emphasis on the qualifications of translators and on the quality of the translation product for a specific language combination, whereas the ÖNORM EN ISO 17100 translation services standard focuses on the optimum framework conditions of the translation process. A similar distinction can be made with regard to interpreting: The primary focus of the ÖNORM D 1202 standard is on the technical aspects of interpreting order management, whereas the UNIVERSITAS Austria certification for interpreting provides a framework for examining applicants’ practical experience and skills.

Standards

Standards are fundamental for a common understanding of services and goods. Especially on the globalized market of language services, international standards provide quality assurance across borders.

The general as well as the specific requirements for translation, interpreting, and terminology services are recognized in standards.

Examples:

  • ÖNORM EN ISO 17100:2018 02 01 – Translation services – Requirements for translation services (ISO 17100:2015 + Amd 1:2017)
  • ÖNORM D 1201 – Translation services – Translation contracts
  • ÖNORM D 1202 – Translation and interpretation services – Interpretation services – Requirements for the service and the provision of the service
  • ÖNORM D 1203 – Translation and interpretation services – Interpretation services – Interpretation contracts
  • ISO 13611:2014 – Interpreting – Guidelines for community interpreting
  • ÖNORM A 2704:2015 – Terminology work – Principles and methods
  • ÖNORM EN ISO 20108: 2018 03 15 Simultaneous interpreting – Quality and transmission of sound and image input – Requirements
  • ISO 20228 – Interpreting services – Legal interpreting – Requirements
  • Translation services – Post-editing of machine translation output – Requirements

Further standards are available on the website of Austrian Standards International: austrian-standards.at. These standards can be purchased and are intended for personal use.

Thanks to Committee 239 (Language services), its members can actively participate in creating current standards. Furthermore, UNIVERSITAS Austria is represented in the national mirror committee TC 37/SC 5 “Translation, interpreting and related technology.”

Technology and Tools

CAT Tools

A CAT tool (computer-assisted/computer-aided translation tool) is a translation program facilitating the translation process by saving translated texts (source and target text) in translation memories (TM) and notifying translators if sentences appear in a text more than once.

Translators can use the TM for future assignments with a similar topic, as the program then suggests how to translate sentences or segments that have already been translated.

Human translators can accept, reject, or edit suggestions to adapt them to the source text’s content, ensuring consistent use of terminology.

Machine Translation (MT)

Machine Translation describes the process of computer software translating texts. The program uses corpora saved in the TM to produce target texts based on these corpora, using statistical models.

This type of translation provides adequate results for specific translation fields and text types, especially those with a simple sentence structure and recurring expressions. However, extensive post-editing by human translators is usually necessary.

This may be due to the fact that machines are not capable of thought, but rely on rigid statistics that do not correspond to the nature of many languages and are not flexible enough.

Neural Machine Translation (NMT)

In order to improve the results of machine translation, the development of artificial neural networks based on the human brain is currently being pursued.

This approach is based on the ability of computers to „learn“ from large amounts of texts and their translations, which are made available as Big Data. This vast amount of data contains not only languages, but also images.

During NMT, neural networks are created, like in the human brain. This process is called Deep Learning and refers to the deeper learning process through consideration of all the means available to the machine. Therefore, the focus no longer lies on the statistical model, but on making connections by trial and error as well as on the ability of machines to learn from mistakes.

Due to the large amount of available data, this process leads to more accurate results.

Sources (available in German only):