In today’s world of global pandemics, remote interpreting has jumped to the forefront of solutions for overcoming distance barriers.

Before COVID-19, remote interpreters were starting to be used during physical events:

They gave organisers much greater flexibility and added convenience compared with onsite services. Plus, they removed travel and equipment hire costs from the equation while reducing the carbon footprint.

Now, during times when a face-to-face meeting isn’t a good idea, remote interpreting services are helping people to connect even more:

  • They’re used for both specifically-designed virtual events and by organisers who were originally intending to host a physical event.
  • In business, remote interpreters keep companies connected internally and with their audience. Even if they had never tried to communicate with their consumer base in this way before.

If you are only just starting to learn about how remote interpreting can solve the distance problem, this article will explain everything you need to know:

What is remote interpreting? How does it work?

Remote interpretation delivers the same language support as the in-person interpreting services you’ve used before. But without the linguist needing to be onsite.

Modern remote interpreting is most commonly delivered using cloud-based technology, smartphones and other devices to create a smooth and seamless experience. Here’s how it works:

  1. Speech: the speaker speaks into their desktop, laptop or device. Their voice (and often their image) are live-streamed to the interpreter.
  2. Interpretation: the interpreter verbally translates what the speaker is saying.
  3. Platform links: remote interpreting software provides the links between the speaker, interpreter and audience. This type of software comes with teleconferencing capability of its own. But it can also be integrated with Skype, Zoom or your preferred platform.
  4. Audience: your event attendees connect to the software platform on their device to listen to interpretation in their preferred language.

The different types of remote interpretation

Remote interpreting services can be delivered in two different ways:

1) VRI (Video Remote Interpreting)

Video Remote Interpreting is delivered using the precise method described above.

It is the best way to facilitate clear communication between speakers and audience members who speak different languages. It is frequently used in the healthcare and legal fields and for corporate events of all kinds.

The only limitation to VRI is that audience members must know how to use a smartphone or other device capable of streaming the interpretation feed. This is very rarely an issue. But it is something to bear in mind.

2) OPI (Over the Phone Interpreting)

Over-the-Phone Interpreting can be delivered in much the same way as above, only without the video feed. It can also be delivered via a good old phone call.

The only limitation to OPI is that the speakers cannot see the linguist and vice versa. Speakers also cannot see each other if they are not in the same room. This is actually more of a problem than you might expect. Things like body language and facial expressions are a vital part of communication. Without them, some level of understanding can be lost.

It is also not possible to deliver sign language interpreting without a video connection.

Interpreting modes and your event

You also have the usual types of interpretation available. These are often referred to as modes. Which mode sounds like it would be better for your event

  • Remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI): this is usually best for conferences, speeches and other presentations when one presenter is speaking to an audience and doesn’t want to have to wait for the interpreter to do their work. Audience members receive a near-simultaneous verbal translation in their preferred language without pause.
  • Remote consecutive interpreting: this is usually better when interaction between speakers or audience members is going to be required. One speaker finishes speaking, then waits while the linguist verbally translates what they have said. They can then speak more, or allow the next speaker to respond. Suitable situations might include business meetings, doctors appointments or legal interviews.

Why use remote interpreting for your event?

There are many benefits of remote interpreting:

1) You cut equipment and travel costs

With no need for interpreters to travel to your event or business address, you won’t be charged for mileage or any minimum call-out fees.

Also completely unnecessary is hiring or buying soundproof booths and other potentially expensive pieces of equipment which an onsite linguist might need.

You and your audience are almost certain to already have the devices you need for remotely-delivered interpretation. Be it smartphones, laptop or a phone line.

2) You can use them on-demand

If you need an interpreter on a regular basis, using a remote interpreting service saves you paying hourly rates when you don’t need one – or travel costs every time you do need one.

This flexibility is also a huge boon when you need to support short-notice events like business meetings or press conferences. All you need to do is contact your Language Service Provider (LSP), tell them the size of your event, the languages you want to support and the industry you’re in (to make sure they provide a linguist who is a specialist in your field).

You can then be linked with the ideal interpreter in a very short space of time.

3) You add convenience – and remove admin

Remote Simultaneous Interpreting has started to gain ground as one of the most cost-effective and convenient ways to support physical events as well as virtual ones.

This is mainly because the set-up process consists of little more than making sure your LSP has the right team in place and that your attendees have access to their smartphones and a solid connection (or alternatives if this isn’t possible) plus Quality Assurance testing.

This means you can get language support for any event quickly and easily. You can also get it for unusual languages and specific audience members much more cost-effectively than before.

4) You reduce your carbon footprint

International events traditionally have large carbon footprints. You can reduce that of your event with RSI as you eliminate the need for your interpreting team to travel.

5) You reduce the hassle involved

LSPs have been working for years to make the provision of onsite interpreting services as stress and hassle-free as possible for event organisers. But remote interpreting is always going to be easier.

All attendees need to do is take out their own smartphone. Download the app. Then they’re ready to go. All you need to do is specify your needs, make sure the connection is in place and get your LSP on the case.

6) You save floor space

When used as an alternative to onsite interpreters at a physical event, RSI will save you the floor space usually required by soundproof booths and the like.

7) You still get full support

One of the best things about onsite language support for your event is that there are always experts on-hand to manage any problems which might arise.

That hasn’t gone away with remote services. LSPs like Asian Absolute and platforms like Interprefy offer support throughout your event. In our case, we even partner with Interprefy to make sure that support is seamless.

8) You connect more powerfully – and stay on-message

Building a strong connection is all the easier when communication is clear, easy and accurate.

That accuracy is critical in healthcare and legal situations and other specialist fields. That’s why so many healthcare providers use RSI services – as do education providers, government and council services and many others.

But that accuracy is also vital in the corporate world. It makes it much easier for commercial enterprises to know they’re staying on message when they’re communicating internationally.

What kind of events is remote interpreting suitable for?

Remote interpreting is suitable for all kinds of events, including:

1) Conferences and virtual conferences

RSI services are incredibly popular with conference organisers. That’s because they’re the ideal fit for this kind of event in every way. They make life easier for organisers and delegates in addition to being more cost-effective and often more accessible than onsite language support.

In the time of COVID-19 and likely long after, virtual conferences are also becoming more of a norm. One which many organisers may not change away from after the immediate crisis has passed because of the savings and convenience of hosting an event online rather than in a physical venue.

2) Business meetings and virtual meetings

International meetings with suppliers, partners, potential clients and even internally between teams on different continents are also an ideal choice for remote simultaneous or consecutive interpreting support.

Without needing to worry about expressing themselves properly in a language which is not their native tongue, team members, partners and others can really say what they mean.

The best RSI platforms integrate with Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx and other popular business video conferencing platforms.

3) Seminars and webinars

Seminars, webinars and other education or training-focused events require attendees to have either a high level of fluency in the presenter or educator’s language. Or they require proper language support to enable these students to learn at the same rate and with the same clarity as everyone else.

This is especially important if technical terminology is going to feature in your seminar. But it’s vital even for things like basic employee safety training.

4) In-person and remote appointments

Remote consecutive interpreting – often delivered over-the-phone – has long been a resource for medical professionals and others who are attempting to communicate with patients or clients with little or limited fluency in their common language.

This on-demand kind of language support often used to be called for in fringe cases or on an emergency basis. In the time of COVID-19, many healthcare providers now provide virtual appointments for many of their patients in a bid to reduce unnecessary interaction.

For most medical and indeed legal situations, a video link is a key aid to understanding. Your interpreter will be able to do their job much more accurately if they can see the people they are bridging the language gap between.

How to get started with remote interpreting

For all its hassle reduction and streamlined delivery, there are still a few things you can do to ensure that you get the best out of your remote interpreting service:

1) Use interpreters who are experts in your field

An interpreting service is only as good as the linguist delivering it. The real key to quality is that linguist’s knowledge of the subject in question.

Picture a conversation between a doctor and a patient. The doctor will often need to use precise medical terminology to get their point across. If the linguist is not intimately familiar with this kind of terminology in both languages, the possibility of miscommunication arises.

There is an infamous case of doctors relying on a member of staff and family members for verbal translation of a sick young man’s condition. The doctors understood “intoxicated” when the actual word was “poisoned”. The young man ended up severely ill for life.

Always, always make sure your LSP uses specialist linguists. For example, Asian Absolute’s interpreters have a minimum of five years of experience in the relevant field or are qualified to a Masters degree level. Often, they’re both.

2) Choose the right tools and technology

Various video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Skype integrate easily with remote interpreting platforms. But your choice of the right tools and technology will usually be driven by your audience.

There are a few important questions to ask yourself when it comes to picking the right platform for your event:

  • Will your audience be tech-savvy enough to operate the software?
  • Will your audience have access to smartphones?
  • Will you be communicating sensitive information during the course of the appointment or meeting? If so, security might be a concern.

You also need to be sure that your audience has access to headphones. This is both to improve sound quality – especially if they are tuning in remotely – and to make it possible for multiple people to listen to the interpretation when in the same physical location.

Speakerphones are not a good idea at any time.

3) Check your connection

Still on the subject of tools and technology, you also need to ensure that all participants have a good connection:

  • For virtual events: it is highly recommended that participants are encouraged to connect directly to routers using Ethernet cables (these are available for mobile devices as well as laptops) rather than relying on home Wi-Fi, 4G or 5G connections which can drop out and lead to information loss.
  • For physical venues: it is important that the Wi-Fi and internet connections are stable and that you have a high-speed connection with strong bandwidth.

4) Prepare the venue or space

Whether you are presenting a virtual event from your home office or a physical one in a busy conference hall, the acoustics and conditions of the space are important factors to bear in mind.

Background noise such as traffic outside the window, the sound of active computers or other equipment, people constantly entering or exiting the space – these will all impede communication.

Try to create a space where the audio can be clearly heard and the video will not suffer numerous interruptions.

5) Brief your virtual presenter (even if it’s you)

There are significant differences between presenting a virtual session and presenting a real-world conference. You or your presenter should be aware of these.

It’s still a good idea to check in with your audience by posing open-ended questions to confirm understanding. Participants often need to be prompted further in a virtual setting to step forward.

6) Meet with your interpreter first (even if it’s virtually)

During this session, you can talk about the topics which will be under discussion and your plans for the event. Your LSP will usually ask for briefing documents for their linguist in any case. But it’s a good idea to make sure everyone is on the same page. You can also go over any verbal or visual signals you might need.

In return, your interpreter or LSP will be able to advise you how to deliver clear audio using the software or teach you how to use the platform if necessary.

7) Test everything

Run a serious test of your system before your event is due to start. Nothing looks more unprofessional than technical problems before you even get underway.

As with all other aspects of using remote interpreting to overcome the distance barrier, your LSP will be your main resource here. With extensive experience delivering this kind of event, they can make sure that you are set up and ready to go.

Do you need to find the right remote interpreter for your event or appointment?

Asian Absolute provides remote interpreting services for clients around the world and in every industry.

Tell us about your event today. We can answer any questions you might have.