Some time ago a majour event attracting a lot of media attention took place in Berlin. The interpreter was fascinated to see all the tiny cublicles from which all the news channels covered the event. The day after, on TV, the environment looked much more impressive than the real thing.
Opposite our booth there was…well, another interpreting both, it seemed. I was intrigued…was this really an interpreting booth? As a matter of fact, this was the standard “Audiopack-Booth” which is the natural habitat of conference interpreters: soundproof, compliant with ISO-norm 4043, measuring 1.6m x 1.6m x 2m. It was devised for the specific purpose of conference interpreting. In this particular case, however, not everything was in perfect order and questions needed to be raised:
Why do the glass windows face the concrete wall and not the stage?
Why is the booth not manned continuously?
What’s with the unusual equipment installed in the booth?
A fact-finding mission (i.e. a friendly chat with the technician in charge) provided an explanation. Due to the considerable noise level in the room (some 400 vociferous party members plus the very powerful loudspeaker system) one of the German nationwide TV- and radio station had decided to use these soundproof booths for interviews.
As it turns out, flexibility is the middle name of interpreters, but also of interpreting booths!