Factors that affect interpreters' health
The technical conditions of simultaneous interpretation work are important because they have repercussions on interpreters' health.
Ventilation in the booth
This is more important than many people think. Under the best of conditions, an SI booth is still a small, closed space occupied throughout the day by 2 or 3 people. They need a good supply of fresh air to remain mentally alert and avoid prolonged exposure to high levels of CO2 which can lead to fatigue, respiratory and other problems.
Interpreters often work with written texts and jot down notes to help a colleague. If the light in the booth is bad, the result is eyestrain and headaches.
It's one thing just to sit and listen to a speaker through a bad sound system, and quite another to listen to both the speaker and your own voice--and interpret. Poor sound quality is another cause of fatigue and headaches.
Monitors in booths
Staring at a monitor all day can also lead to eyestrain and headaches, and raises stress levels in general. Monitors should be used only under exceptional circumstances as visual support only and not to replace a direct view. They must always be top quality.
Long working hours
Simultaneous interpretation is stressful work in the best of conditions, and there's a limit to how long a person can remain alert and sustain a high level of concentration. Studies have shown that the stress brought about by an excessive workload--in any kind of occupation, even those less stressful than SI--has an impact on health over the years.
The additional stress of frequent travelling
Interpreters often travel hundreds or thousands of kilometres to get to their place of work, which is constantly changing. This involves jet lag, changes in altitude and climate, changes in diet and body rhythms, days on end in hotels and conference centres, exposure to excessive heating and air conditioning, etc. Plus the psychological stress of so much instability. The long-term effect on health goes without saying, as any frequent traveller already knows.
Recommended citation format:Technical Committee. "Factors that affect interpreters' health". aiic.net March 24, 2000. Accessed May 28, 2020. <http://aiic.net/p/134>.
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