Guide to Hiring Interpreters and Translators In Africa: For International Event

February 4, 2021

by Mahider Tadesse

As you begin the process of hosting an international event in Africa there are many variables you must consider. From renting equipment to finding the perfect venue, your preparation begins months before your event date — and we are here to help! As you go through the process of hosting an international event in Africa, you may come across the need for an interpreter and/or translator. Depending on where your attendees are coming from and what language they speak, you may need multiple interpreters or translators.

How do you find them? How much do they cost? Can they work virtually? These are great questions that a lot of our clients have. Throughout this blog, we will be going through the different routes to finding and hiring interpreters and translators. 

Understanding The Differences  

Interpreters vs. Translators 

Before you begin, let’s talk about the difference between an interpreter and a translator. The main difference between interpreters and translators is that interpreters translate spoken words where translators translate written words.

Translators are much easier to find and can work from any part of the world. You would just need to give them any documentation you need translated and they can have it done and sent over to you digitally. Depending on how much documentation you have, you may want to hire a translator early on in your event-planning process. Interpreters, on the other hand, are in much higher demand and can be more difficult to find, especially if you have multiple languages that need to be translated. 


Consecutive vs. Simultaneous Interpreting  

Not only is there a difference between an interpreter and a translator, there is also a key difference between types of interpreters. There are two main types of interpreters: A consecutive interpreter and a simultaneous interpreter.

A consecutive interpreter is perfect for smaller events with only a few speakers. In this real-time interpretation, the speaker would pause after every few sentences and allow the interpreter to translate. This route is a simple and cheaper option, however, if you have more than a few speakers and the caliber and length of your event is bigger you would want to look into a simultaneous interpreter. 

Simultaneous interpretation is when the interpreter translates while the speaker is talking in real-time. The speaker would speak into a mic that allows the interpreter to hear them clearly and then the interpreter would translate the information to the attendees in real-time. The attendees would have a device where they can choose their desired language and listen to the corresponding interpreter. This is perfect for larger events where there could be a number of speakers and languages needing to be translated. This is a more expensive option, but is often necessary when dealing with large events. 


Traditional vs. RSI Interpretation 

With the recent travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an increase in the need for virtual interpreters for international events. Remote Simultaneous Interpretation (RSI) is similar to traditional interpretation where the interpreter talks at the same time as the speaker. The key difference is that they are completely remote so you don’t have to worry about having them at the physical location. 

The main drawback of having a remote interpreter is the possibility of connection issues. However, it does save you a lot of time and money to hire a remote interpreter. They usually work through an app that your attendees can download on a phone or tablet, so you wouldn’t have to worry about equipment or travel like you would with traditional interpreters. Working with RSI does require attendees to have proper headsets to listen on their devices. Since they are using their own devices, be sure to have charging stations so that the device they are using doesn’t lose battery. 

Now that you have a better understanding of the differences, let us talk about what you need to know before hiring and where to find your perfect translator or interpreter. 


Understanding Your Language Needs

As an event organizer, you want to make sure that all your attendees are set and ready to go when they arrive. This preparation can begin months in advance, and is key to making your attendees and company happy. Whether it’s making sure their travel plans are in place or they have the correct hotel reservation, you want to make sure that all possible accommodations are met.

An important part of your preparation is understanding exactly which languages your attendees speak, and hiring the correct interpreters for those languages. Your attendees could be coming from all around the world, which means you may have to hire multiple interpreters. Making sure to check the native language of where your event is being held is also important to take into consideration. You may have people joining that are locals and may only speak the native language, so you want to make sure you find an interpreter that knows the local language.


What Are Your Regulations? 

Depending on the event venue, make sure to read your contract carefully for any regulations for interpreters . In Africa, some venues are owned by different institutions or governments that can have specific regulations when it comes to bringing in your own interpreters. You don’t want to glance over your contract and later find out that the venue has its own in-house interpreters and you are not permitted to bring your own. 

With that being said, if your venue does have in-house interpreters, you may want to look into what kind of interpreters they have and the cost. 


Where Do You Find Them?

When you are hosting an event in a country other than your own, you want to find a reliable partner to work with. In order to find a reliable partner, you need to have a place where you can find all the information you need. As we said earlier, translators are easy to find via the internet or through different agencies. One of the biggest challenges we see with our clients is finding the right people to work with when it comes to translating. 

The reason that finding local interpreters in Africa is so difficult is because most interpretation companies in Africa don’t have a web presence. The best way to find companies is to ask for recommendations from reliable partners on the ground. Working with local interpreters is a great way to save on budget since you don’t have to worry about any air travel or finding a place for them to stay. 

Another great resource when looking for international interpreters is the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC). AIIC has over 3,000 members in 105 different countries that can help you with interpretation. If you do go with AIIC for your event in Africa, you want to make sure that enough AIIC members are close enough to your event locations and that they can interpret the languages you need. Depending on the standard of the AIIC and how many interpreters you may need, there might not be enough local members available. In that case, you would have to fly in more. 

When looking for interpreters for virtual events, RSI is the only option. The good thing is that finding a remote interpreter is a lot simpler than finding an in-person interpreter. You would just need to make sure the interpreter has the training for working remotely and is familiar with the type of system or app being used. Most RSI systems have training available, so even if you have an interpreter that might not know the system, they can always go through training beforehand if needed. 


Next Steps

You’ve found an interpreter(s) or translator(s) that you think would best fit your next event — now what? Before you move forward, make sure you have interviewed these interpreters before you sign any contracts. You need to make sure that the interpreters understand the content of your event and are able to relay that information to your attendees seamlessly.

Planning and hiring for events is an exciting and challenging job. By finding the right help and tools, you will be able to find and hire the perfect interpreter and/or translator for your event. If you ever get stuck or have any questions feel free to reach out to us here at Hallpax. We have helped multiple organizations find the perfect interpreters and translators for their events and would love to help you, too!


Are you looking to learn more about hiring interpreters and translators? Let us help you! Hallpax has destination experts who are dedicated to making your event planning process enjoyable and stress-free. We are passionate about the cities we work with, and with our in-person presence in Africa, we help our clients navigate their cities of choice with ease.

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