With this new Sennheiser interpreting system, there is no need for the old earphone kits.

It takes only a few easy steps to connect to the Sennheiser Mobile Connect system.

Streamlined interpreting system is much cheaper

It is out with the old and in with a new cost-effective interpreting system at the NWU – well, in manageable stages rather than in one fell swoop.


The new Sennheiser Mobile Connect system is a Wi-Fi hotspot that allows students to use their own mobile phones and earphones to access the NWU’s interpreting services through an app.


Originally developed for tourists


The older Sennheiser system was originally used as mobile equipment for tour guides, explains Johan Blaauw, director of the Language Directorate.


“The system was developed for people who could not always hear well during tours when they visited noisy places such as beer breweries in Germany.”


The more modern Mobile Connect system was developed to meet the requirements of European legislation on access for hearing-disabled persons in public venues such as auditoriums and theatres.


Listening to lectures has never been this stylish and effective, with students themselves determining the look and quality of their interpreting experience.


Johan Blaauw, director of the Language Directorate, says the new system is five times more cost-effective than its predecessor. “We can now provide interpreting services to 100 students with just one set of equipment.” In the past, interpreters could only serve 20 students with each of the older sets.


This means it costs the NWU almost R1 million less to provide interpreting services to 100 students at a time.


The new system is gradually being phased in alongside the older equipment, and if and when new or replacement equipment is required.


How the new system works


With the older system, interpreters distribute earphone radio receivers to users and interpret lectures using hand-held radio microphones. The earphones are then collected and cleaned afterwards. Sometimes, earphones are lost or damaged, resulting in costly repairs.


The new Sennheiser Mobile Connect system of the German Sennheiser Audio Company uses the same hand-held radio microphones but runs off Wi-Fi, reaching many more students.


Using the free Mobile Connect app on their phones, they tune into whatever lecture is being broadcast. The app is downloaded from the App or Play Store and eliminates the need for distributing, collecting and cleaning radio receiver headsets.


From the old to the new


Johan says as part of the transition from the old to the new, the older earphone receivers is still available to users who do not yet have the app on their phones or lack access to smartphones. They receive the same broadcast as the users of the new system.


The NWU is currently the biggest client of Sennheiser equipment for interpreting purposes in the country. The Mobile Connect system, originally designed as a fixed installation, has been modified to meet the specific needs of the university. “We wanted it, for instance, to be compact and built into a case with wheels for mobility.”


The perks of the system


Although some teething problems are still being resolved, especially integration with the NWU's Wi Fi systems, the system boasts a lot of perks.


The most important plus points, besides costs, are that students use their own equipment of choice, and can listen to either the interpreter or the lecturer, where required, depending on the sound clarity.


Interpreter Hänschen van As says students who have recording software on their phones can even record the original or interpreted versions of the lecture.


Users can adjust the volume, pitch and bass on the app, putting them in control of their listening experience. Another benefit is that the system keeps record of how many users use specific channels.


“We believe that the new system improves the whole interpreting experience not only for students and other users but also for lecturers and interpreters,” says Johan.


“The new system is an effective aid in realising our dream to create a university where everybody will feel welcome in their languages and be able to use their languages to teach, learn and interact freely.”



How we all benefit


With the new interpreting system, poor sound is a thing of the past. If lecturers wear clip-on microphones, it enhances audibility in lecture rooms with bad acoustics.


The system also has an uninterrupted power supply that functions continuously even when load shedding rears its ugly head. This ensures interruption-free learning.


Interpreter Hänschen van As says the system is very user friendly. “Lecturers basically have to push just four buttons to be on air. It is easy for users too, who just have to open the app and select the language channel they want to listen to.”