Remote Interpreting: How To Get Started

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, personal interaction of all sorts is going remote.  This reduces potential exposure for everyone involved, but it also creates new challenges, particularly when participants speak different languages.

Remote interpreting is one way to overcome language barriers while maintaining social distance. Let’s take a look at the types of remote interpreting and how they work in different situations.

Types of Remote Interpreting

Remote interpreting comes in two flavours: Video and over-the-phone. As you’ve no doubt surmised, video remote interpreting involves a video call or video chat including the participants and the interpreter. After one of the participants finishes speaking, the interpreter interprets what was said for other party. Alternately, the interpreter can interpret as the speaker is speaking, with the technology configured so that participants hear what is being said in their own language.

Over the Phone Interpreting works the same way, except that the interpreter can’t see the other parties. If the other participants are not in the same room, they can’t see each other, either.

Does it matter which you use? In a word, yes. So much of our communication is non-verbal. As a result, interpreters are able to interpret more accurately when they can see body language and facial expressions. Video interpreting is also preferred by some sign language users. It allows them to communicate in the language they understand the best.

With that said, video interpreting requires a camera. It also requires a higher level of technical expertise to set up.  If you’ve spent your quarantine living your best life on Zoom and FaceTime, keep in mind that some people, especially the elderly, might not be on the same level. And especially right now, they might not have anyone available to assist them. Almost everyone, on the other hand, knows how to use a telephone.

Remote Interpreting for Healthcare

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, some healthcare providers are using remote interpreting more frequently.  Interpreters are still a vital part of providing care for non-English-speaking patients. But now, they’re also a potential vector.

As another result of the crisis, we’re seeing a lot of movement toward telemedicine and away from in-person visits, at least for minor issues.

Enter remote interpreting.  Telephone and video interpreters have long provided a faster, more cost-effective solution for situations in which booking an in-person interpreter ahead of time isn’t possible. These days, remote interpreting is being used even in cases where an in-person interpreter previously would have been available.

There are some disadvantages to using remote interpreters in place of face-to-face interpreters for medical appointments. As Salome Mwangi, a Kiswahili interpreter in the United States, explained to Time Magazine, being in the room with patients helps interpreters ensure patient comprehension.

“Patients may not say, ‘I have no idea what you just said,’” she says. It’s the patient’s body language that gives Mwangi the cue that a patient may not understand what she’s saying. She worries an interpreter in another part of the country who can’t see the patient in person might not be able to understand those cues.”

However, the current situation being what it is, remote video and phone interpreting is infinitely preferable to no interpreter at all.

Either over-the-phone or video remote interpreting can be used in a healthcare environment, provided both the physician and patient have the equipment available and know how to use it. As mentioned previously, video interpreting is preferred when practical because it allows interpreters to do their jobs with a higher level of accuracy.  It’s also often a preferred option (again, assuming the technology is available) for Deaf and Hard Of Hearing individuals who prefer sign language to written English.  But always ask, and respect the patient’s personal preferences as much as possible.

Professional Medical Interpreters Are a Must

No matter what type of remote interpreting technology you use, it’s important to use specialist medical interpreters if at all possible. Consider, for a moment, how difficult it can be for healthcare workers and laypeople to communicate even when they both speak the same language. Often, medical interpreters have to interpret the same statement twice. First,  they must interpret from medical terminology to plain language, and then from the source language to the target language.

As medical matters involve confidential patient information, the platform used for interpreting matters, too.  It should be secure, and compliant with all relevant data privacy regulations.

Remote Interpreting for Virtual Meetings

Business meetings, too, are going online.  By using remote interpreting services, today’s multilingual, global organisations ensure that everyone has a voice in these events.

Interpretation in these situations can be either simultaneous or consecutive.

Remote simultaneous interpretation is possible for both online video meetings and multilingual conference calls. In both cases, an offsite interpreter interprets what’s being said in real time. So, participants can hear speakers and ask questions in their own language with minimal delays.

With consecutive interpreting, the interpreter interprets after the speaker is done speaking.  This type of interpretation is best for one-on-one or small group meetings, as the length of the meeting or call is essentially doubled.

Remote Interpreting for Virtual Events and Conferences

Interpreters have long been a staple at conferences and trade shows. These events, too, have been taken online for the time being. They’ve been replaced with virtual conferences and webinars.  Here, too, remote interpreting can be used either instead of or in conjunction with multilingual captioning to make information accessible to a global audience. By using an interpreting service (instead of relying on captioning exclusively), you can broaden the appeal of your event and improve the attendee experience for those who prefer not to read subtitles.

How to Find a Remote Interpreter, Fast

Do you need a remote medical interpreter, a BSL interpreter or someone to interpret at your virtual conference? Book a skilled language professional quickly using our new service, TalkLingua.

Whether you have an immediate need for an on-demand interpreter, or you would like to pre-book one of our language professionals for a future date, TalkLingua makes the process simple and fast. Connect with an Over the Phone or Video Remote interpreter within seconds. Or, schedule remote interpreting services in just a few clicks.

And yes, there’s an app for that, available for computers, tablets and mobiles.  Find out more and book a demo here.