Because of cultural diversity it is usual for churches today to have people from different countries interested in attending their religious services. When these people do not understand the language spoken at the services, houses of worship may need to purchase an interpretation system (also referred to as translation system).
How does it work?
The preacher speaks through a microphone. (In certain occasions, there may not be a microphone available.)
The interpreter listens to the preacher’s voice, preferably through headphones.
The interpreter converts the message into the foreign language by speaking into a microphone connected to a transmitter. The transmitter broadcasts the interpreter’s voice wirelessly to the audience.
Congregants listen to the interpreter through wireless receivers with headphones. The receivers used by the audience and the interpreter’s transmitter are tuned to the same channel or frequency.
The interpretation occurs in real time while the preacher is speaking without disrupting the flow of the message. For this reason, it is called simultaneous interpretation.
Some question you should ask yourself before purchasing an interpretation system
- Audience size
How many people require interpretation?
- Foreign languages
How many target languages will be needed?
- Interpreter location
Where will the interpreter be located?At the back of the room? To the side of the pulpit? In an adjacent room? Or inside a soundproof booth?
- Single or multichannel system
Do I need single frequency or multichannel receivers and transmitter?
- Additional interpreter equipment
Do I need an interpreter console?
Are there any regulations these units need to be compliant with?
Choosing the right system
Radio frequency or infrared systems
Infrared (IR) equipment is mostly recommended if privacy is needed or more than 6 channels are required. Set up is more complex and expensive requiring the installation of radiators, whose quantity depends on the size and shape of the room, as well as on the number of channels needed.
Radio frequency systems like FM equipment are easier to install and operate, are more economical and they have become the standard in the industry.
Since most churches do not require more than 6 languages and do not handle classified information, we highly recommend FM systems.
Analog or digital systems
There is a great deal of misinformation in this regard and many companies depending what they sell speak in favor of one or the other. The truth is that there is not one better than the other. It depends on the application and technology available. For example, in infrared systems, digital transmission offers a clear advantage over analog transmission. However, in radio frequency transmission like FM for simultaneous interpretation there are visible advantages in analog systems over digital. Analog transmission within the 72-76 MHz frequency range is protected by the FCC for the use in language interpretation and assistive listening and cannot be used for other applications. Digital transmission, on the other hand, must be shared by a rising number of digital devices that can saturate the spectrum.
We highly recommend FM systems within 72-76 MHz for language interpretation in the USA, Canada and many other countries.
Portable or table top transmitter
If the interpreter needs to move around, such as during spiritual retreats involving walks or for outdoor use without the availability of electrical outlets, portable transmitters are a good option. For all other cases, table top transmitters offer several advantages and are recommended for houses of worship. Some of the advantages of tabletop (or desktop) transmitters are the larger coverage and range, as well as more sophisticated circuits with more functions; they also offer more flexibility like additional inputs. There is one FM desktop transmitter in the market (Enersound T500) with an interpreter monitoring function that allows the interpreter to select an external incoming audio source and utilize a headset with microphone to listen to the source language without the need of an interpreter console or external headphone amplifier.
Compliance with the rules of the FCC and IC
To ensure the device complies with the applicable technical requirements, the Federal Communications Commission and Industry Canada require that RF devices are properly authorized.This is the principal way to ensure that RF devices used in the United States or Canada operate effectively without causing harmful interference and comply with these rules.
Fines may be levied against houses of worship for infringement to FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and IC (Industry Canada) regulations if your equipment does not operate within the permitted frequency range. There may even be more serious legal consequences for repeat violations.
Nowadays, gear from other countries can be easily found on market places, and no one takes responsibility for that but you. It might even work correctly under another countries' rules, but not in The United States or Canada. Neither can you be absolutely sure that their performance quality had been fully evaluated.
To place safe and avoid costly legal consequences, always purchase systems from US or Canadian retailers that sell FCC and IC approved equipment. Purchasing an FCC/ IC approved system within the 72-76 MHz band, does not require any additional licensing on your part. If purchasing an interpretation system from a foreign seller, always request the FCC id for the product you intend to purchase and verify their authenticity at FCC website. The FCC id is an alphanumeric code. For example, the Enersound T500 transmitter FCC Id is 2ABY4T500.
For most houses of worship since only one source language is spoken by the preacher, an interpreter console is not needed, specially if you choose a system with an interpreter monitor like the Enersound T500 transmitter that allows the interpreter to get the audio feed from the Pastor’s voice, control the interpreter's headphones volume and mute the interpreter microphone.
If you are planning to use the interpretation system for conferences with interaction among people speaking different languages, an interpreter console may be required.
The interpreter uses an interpreter console to adjust the volume and tone of the sound he/she hears, as well as to select the outgoing channel. The interpreter console has controls that allow the interpreter to activate or deactivate the output from his or her microphone and select the input and output channels. On professional systems, the interpreter console also interacts with the central control unit to allow the use of the relay function between different booths and the routing of the floor signals when the interpreter’s microphone is deactivated.
Single or multichannel system
Single frequency receivers are not the best option since they operate with one fixed frequency only.
A multichannel receiver lets you work with different channels and an LCD screen that makes it easier to select among them.
Multichannel receivers are preferred for more channels in case needed to cover additional languages and also for greater flexibility in case of interference.
A case is a good option when you need to carry the receivers. Some cases have extra space to store accessories such as a transmitter, earphones and microphones. You might want to make sure these units are fully protected too.
Don't forget to purchase the necessary cables to connect your system.
It's important that the interpreter has, in addition to the microphone, a headphone that allows the interpreter to listen to the preacher, as long as the system has interpreter monitoring capabilities. For greater comfort, you may purchase an interpreter headset with a microphone attached instead of having two separate pieces (a microphone and a headphone.)
If the budget allows at your house of worship, the purchase of an interpretation booth can be considered a plus for sound reduction from the interpreter’s voice, especially if the interpreter is seated too close to the congregants. Although some houses of worship due to budgetary constraints may not be able to afford one.
For simultaneous interpretation you will normally need one booth per language. Most booths can accommodate 1 or 2 interpreters.
Translation booths are ideal for simultaneous interpretation at meetings and conferences as they provide acoustic separation between interpreters, participants and attendees, building a comfortable working environment, allowing perfect visual and audio communication. We recommend full size, sound-proof interpretation booths for full day events and table top interpretation-translation booths for greater portability.
We have found that interpretation systems with the Enersound T-500 unit, features all of the things covered in this article as well as a unique Interpreter Monitor Output that lets you connect your PA system straight to its rear panel, allowing the interpreter to have every parameter under his or her control. A volume knob and a mute button complete a professional job when used. They are available in three different packages for 5, 10 and 25 people and other quantities are also available based on the church’s needs. Bottom line, this system turned out to be a remarkably user-friendly package that even includes an awesome built-in interpreter monitor option making it clearly stands out from the run of the mill equipment you can find on the market.
25-Person Translation System with Interpreter Monitor
For a portable option, we recommend the 25-Person Portable Translation/Tourguide System