One interpreter’s road kit

Juliette Scott is an English-French-Italian translator and interpreter based in Europe. She specializes in the legal field and blogs about translation and law at Words to Deeds. Thank you Juliette for this guest post about what to take on the road!


As readers will know, Catherine’s blog is full of useful information for colleagues. So I decided to write about my “road kit” as an interpreter.

interpreter's road kit


First to be packed is my iPad.

What a difference it makes in comparison to lugging around a laptop. On it, I have the equivalent of about 20 kg of dictionaries. I’ll name a few favourites:

I can then check words when preparing, if the client has provided reference material or PowerPoints, as well as checking words for colleagues while they are “on”. The iPad also fits into a cramped booth much more easily than a laptop!

As many people have said, battery life is fantastic on the iPad (works all day long and still has plenty left), so no need to scrabble under the booth desk to find a plug. The cable is super-light too.

I use Dropbox, so when clients send me documents for an assignment, I can keep them there and if I want to read through anything on a plane journey without an Internet connection, I just download them to the iPad for the duration.

I carry a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad, especially when I attend conferences or courses for my own purposes, such as the CIUTI forum, and want to take notes. In booths I use the on-screen keyboard to keep things compact. I purchased a Waterfield Designs case for the keyboard, which is fantastically light and robust. Well worth $29.

The added advantage of the external keyboard is that it’s the same as my iMac desktop keyboard. So if I do have to type a lot, no getting used to a different one. When I’m not on the road, I use the iPad as a dictionary and second screen beside my iMac.

To keep the iPad upright, I love my marvellous TwelveSouth Compass stand. It is quite heavy (my only concession to added weight) but doesn’t move at all even when I jab clumsily away at the iPad. There’s a foldable case/stand with the new iPads of course, so you may prefer that.

Interpreters don’t always work in booths. Sometimes we do factory visits, and sometimes consecutive or simultaneous interpretation for speeches or in meetings. In those situations, we are not always given sound equipment. Fed up with arriving at the venue and having to strain to hear (“we forgot/didn’t realise you needed it, etc.”), two years ago I acquired a couple of very reasonably priced analogue microphones and receivers. This enables me to take them along as a backup. Whilst not being the quality of digital equipment such as industry standard Sennheiser, it is certainly so much better than no in-ear sound! I obtained my equipment from Sound Induction (UK).

A little tip to stave off infections, especially in winter months – when sharing microphones with speakers or colleagues, phone clean wipes are very handy, as is disinfectant hand gel.

By the way, when going through airport security, I discovered an added bonus of the microphones – instead of aggressive requests to show the contents of my bag, they now ask me, in awe, “Are you a journalist?” I always put them straight. 😉

Talking of luggage, last year I invested in a Rimowa case, the size that is allowed in the plane, thus saving 3 kg on the spot! I know, you are thinking I’m obsessed with weight, but believe me, when going up and down the steps of the Métro it really makes a difference! Being a hard case, it also protects my electronic equipment.

And lastly, something much less “techie”. I take along these beautiful individually wrapped tea bags from Dammann Frères in Paris. This little luxury means that I can enjoy my favourite green tea instead of tasteless sludge in planes, airports and high-speed trains, not to mention being very soothing during breaks from interpreting.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this tour around my suitcase. Do share your own mobile tips too!

7 thoughts on “One interpreter’s road kit”

  1. Thanks for a great post, I was thinking of sharing something similar on my blog as well. I’d add always, but always, having something to snack on you. And for court interpreters: something to read.

  2. Thanks Marta !

    I quite agree, snack essential. As for reading, you’re right there too, although the really weight-obsessive can read e-books & articles on their iPad !! I’ve even stopped buying certain magazines where the digital versions are better.

  3. Hi,
    Thanks for the great post with lots of useful tips.
    I am thinking of replacing my old mini computer with a tablet and must say you gave me more arguments in favour of that!

  4. Thank you for sharing that! I run a seminar called “What’s in your bag?”, and feel close to most of the ideas you express, especially when it comes to carrying your own mike. I too have similar devices, but just today was met again with the (frequent) criticism “don’t set a precedent, or we’ll never work in a booth again!” I’d love to talk more, and thanks in the meantime.

    Martin @ bigcitymartin

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