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.
Is a trade license required to provide these services? Yes.
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 2003, a 3-year professional training program, GESDO, has been initiated in Linz, where the latest training started in the fall of 2020.
The University of Salzburg has been offering an inclusive part-time training, Modus, since the fall of 2019, which comprises 5 semesters and teaches hearing and deaf sign language interpreters and translators together.
The University of Applied Sciences in Innsbruck has initiated a new training course in the fall of 2020.
A previous educational path which is no longer offered was a series of seminars for part-time students called AchtungFertigLos (last course ended in June 2020) provided by the Association of Austrian Sign Language Interpreters and Translators (ÖGSDV) (available in German and Austrian Sign Language only).
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).
Speech-to-text interpreting (STTI)
What is speech-to-text interpreting?
Speech-to-text interpreting (STTI) is the quasi-simultaneous transcription of spoken language including paralinguistic features and any extralinguistic or prosodic elements relevant for the recipient to grasp all aspects of the communication process. It is used in specific situations for people with various kinds of impairments and plays an important role in increasing accessibility, inclusion and integration. Speech-to-text interpreters work within one language (intralingually, for example German – German) or between two languages (interlingually, for instance English – German) and in various settings (on site, remotely, for an individual recipient or a conference audience). Of the different STTI methods available, the conventional method (using a QWERTZ keyboard) and the voice recognition method (where the text is respoken using special software) have become established in German-speaking countries. For more information on training programmes available in Austria, Germany and Switzerland and the different fields in which speech-to-text interpreters work, please go to the website of the Austrian Association of Speech-to-Text Interpreters (Österreichischer SchriftdolmetscherInnen-Verband; ÖSDV) at www.oesdv.at (in German only).