06/10/2013 Wedemark, Germany

Simultaneous Interpretation for South African Students with Tourguide 2020-D

English is increasingly used as the medium of instruction at schools and is regarded by the majority of the population as the language of access to the wider world. Hence any institution teaching in a language other than English is under pressure also needs to make classes accessible in English. The only other language used on a large scale as medium of instruction in South Africa is Afrikaans, hence these schools too are under pressure to accommodate English-preferring students. These institutions have to find creative and innovative ways of meeting these challenges, and simultaneous classroom interpreting offers such a solution.

Simultaneous interpreting during lectures
In conjunction with Sennheiser South Africa the North-West University’s Potchefstroom campus started a whispered interpreting service to solve this problem. They set up an interpretation system utilizing the Sennheiser Tourguide 2020-D system to provide simultaneous interpreting (real-time oral translation) of the lectures. “Each student requiring interpreting is provided with an HDE 2020-D-II receiver at the entrance of the lecture room,” explained Patrick Goodenough, Product Manager, from Sennheiser South Africa. “They are then informed of the channel on which the interpreting can be received, and in the classes where interpreting into more than one language takes place, they are informed of the relevant channel for their choice of language.”

The interpreters sit at the front of the room close to the lecturer and use a handheld SKM 2020-D microphone in order to do soft-spoken interpreting of the lecture as it proceeds. The interpreters are employed as professional interpreters but come from all walks of life, from persons with master’s and other degrees in specific subject fields to some with university training as interpreters. At the NWU Sennheiser Tourguide systems were first used for whispered interpreting in 2004, after a trial in 2003 to prove its viability. Since 2009 the predominant system has been the Sennheiser Tourguide 2020-D system. “We are glad that we have been part of such a meaningful project,” Goodenough summed up.

The Potchefstroom Campus of the NWU was first to make large-scale use of interpreting from Afrikaans to English, as it is a predominantly Afrikaans-medium campus and this provided a solution to the challenge of giving access to students preferring English. The first academic programme that was interpreted was Engineering, followed soon thereafter by, inter alia Pharmacy, Nursing, Business Mathematics and Informatics, Law and Chartered Accountancy. Today, interpreting of some programs takes place in all faculties.

First graduates in Foundation Phase Education in Setswana
But there had also been a need to promote the local indigenous African language, Setswana, as a language of university education. Recently the first students studying with whispered interpreting of some modules into Setswana obtained their degrees in Foundation Phase Education from the Potchefstroom Campus of the NWU. This has enabled these newly trained teachers in turn to be able to teach learners in the Foundation Phase in their mother tongue, Setswana.

At present at the NWU receivers are handed out on more than 12,000 occasions per week in some 1,700 lectures to students who make use of interpreting services provided with the Sennheiser Tourguide 2020-D system. The interpreting is a full-time, permanent service at the NWU. Whispered interpreting is currently spreading to other universities of South Africa to give as many students as possible the opportunity to fully benefit from their university education through multilingual instruction. Other South African universities such as Stellenbosch University have initiated similar services, but are still in the pilot phase and are not currently employing interpreting on the same scale as the NWU.

Sennheiser equipment used by the NWU:

  • 1360 HDE 2020-D-II digital receivers
  • 75 SK/SKM 2020-D digital microphones
  • 60 EZL 2020-D charging cases
  • 4 EZL 2041 charging racks
  • 320 HDE 1030 receivers
  • 20 SKM 1032 analogue transmitters
  • 16 EZL 1030 charger cases

  • The Sennheiser Group, with its headquarters in Wedemark near Hanover, Germany, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems. The family-owned company, which was established in 1945, recorded sales of around €531 million in 2011. Sennheiser employs more than 2,100 people worldwide, and has manufacturing plants in Germany, Ireland and the USA. The company is represented worldwide by subsidiaries in France, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Germany, Denmark (Nordic), Russia, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Japan, China, Canada, Mexico and the USA, as well as by long-term trading partners in many other countries. Also part of the Sennheiser Group are Georg Neumann GmbH, Berlin (studio microphones and monitor loudspeakers), and the joint venture Sennheiser Communications A/S (headsets for PCs, offices and call centres).

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