Even before the COVID-19 global pandemic, video remote interpreting was becoming an increasingly common practice. It’s easy to see why:
For a start, it’s on-demand. It’s more cost-effective than other interpreting services. And it doesn’t require the interpreter or the parties having the conversation to travel.
But the advantages of video remote interpreting have only been heightened by the recent global pandemic and the accompanying need to create no-contact practices in almost every industry.
Meetings, conferences and negotiations which used to be handled in person are now being carried out at a distance. In both the public and private sector, video remote interpreting has suddenly become the go-to solution for all sorts of spoken and signed communication.
What is video remote interpreting?
Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) relies on specialist videoconferencing software to facilitate a secure conversation between two or more parties and an off-site interpreter. None of the parties need to be in the same location for VRI to go ahead.
Most commonly used in the healthcare and legal fields, but also visible in a wide array of corporate projects, VRI can be used for both spoken and signed languages. These services can bridge almost any language gap imaginable.
In general, remote interpreting can be seen enabling everything from legal interviews to large-scale events. These days, you’re as likely to have a remote interpreter supporting your one-on-one doctor’s appointment as you are to find that the major conference or trade show you’re attending is providing interpretation via a handy phone app.
How does VRI work?
Video remote interpreting connects you with an interpreter via a secure internet connection and what is, in much of the modern world, the bare minimum of communications technology. Usually, all you will need to do is:
- Set up your service – some Language Service Providers (LSPs) offer on-demand services where you can find a generic interpreter in minutes. Responsible providers like Asian Absolute will always prefer a little advance notice. That’s so that we can locate an interpreter who is a specialist in your industry – a current or former healthcare professional if you’re in a medical field, for example – as well as serving your language pairing. This is vital if you want your interpreter to understand and verbally translate important terminology.
- Check your equipment – you’ll need a microphone, speakers, camera and a stable internet connection. Most modern smartphones, tablets and laptops have everything you’ll need.
- Start your session – all that’s usually required is to click a link or start up the interpreting application you’re using.
- Once you’re finished, sign out – it really is that simple.
The benefits of video remote interpreting for businesses
There are many reasons why organisations in all sectors and niches have started to use a video remote interpreting service as part of their operations:
1) It allows clear, easy communication
For many businesses, going back to their old way of hiring in-person interpreting services seems a major step backwards after they use VRI for the first time.
Many use it as part of their communications set-up every day. Others – healthcare providers, for example – have a service always standing by to meet their needs.
VRI is so easy to simply call, click and begin that it enables many businesses to establish stronger relationships across language and cultural barriers than they could ever dream of doing before.
The fact that VRI includes that all-important visual aspect is key here. This ensures that no facial or physical communication cues are missed during the interpretation process.
2) It’s highly cost-effective
Compared to other interpreting services, VRI is very friendly on your budget. If you were setting up an in-person interpreting service, you would likely need to pay a minimum appointment charge as well as potential travel costs and other fees for your language specialist to get to where they need to go. Not so with VRI.
There’s also no need to buy or rent expensive equipment. A simultaneous interpreter who is at your event in person will need a soundproof booth and audio and visual links so they can see the main speaker. Plus, you will need headsets for every member of your audience who needs interpretation.
When you use a remote interpreter, you will usually just need the audience to download an app to their smartphone and click “go”. When you use a video remote interpreter for a meeting, your only outlay is the generally very cost-effective rate of the interpreting service.
3) You need hardly any equipment
If you’ve got a device like a laptop, smartphone or tablet, you’ve got pretty much everything you need to set up video remote interpreting.
The actual list of equipment you’ll need to either confirm is part of your device or acquire separately consists of:
- A camera – there’s no video without a camera. Make sure your device’s built-in camera is going to be up to the job if you haven’t used it in a while or if it’s very old. Ensure the application you’re using to set up VRI has permission to access your camera.
- A microphone – most devices have a built-in microphone these days, but it’s best to check. You should also test before your event or appointment so that you know you’re coming in loud and clear. If you can get a directional microphone which filters out background noise, all the better.
- Speakers – another obvious but vital item to check. Ensure your speakers give out clear sound.
- A stable internet connection – the final key ingredient is your internet connection. If you are on a train or using mobile data, for instance, it’s probably not the best time to set up VRI. Aim for a speed of at least 40 Megabits per second.
- You – joking aside, if you’re using VRI for business, it’s worth remembering that you will be visible on screen. This probably means dressing the part and choosing a good background – a neutral colour wall, curtains or bookshelves are all favourites – to sit against. You should also confirm that there are going to be no interruptions or loud noises from computer equipment, ceiling fans or the like. Be sure to enunciate clearly when you speak too.
4) It promotes clarity
Particularly if you use a Language Service Provider like Asian Absolute – which prioritises sourcing you an interpreter with experience and/or qualifications in your industry – VRI ensures a higher clarity and quality of communication.
This is absolutely vital in something like a healthcare or legal setting. But it’s also important in almost any kind of business communications you care to name too. Think about an international business meeting or negotiation with a client or supplier. Or internal communications with international team members, subsidiaries and partners.
Information transmitted over the phone can be lost or misunderstood. Adding a visual element to communication dramatically increases clarity because:
- It’s right there on (their) face – a surprising amount of human communication comes from the facial expressions we display. Make sure you can see what the other parties in the conversation are thinking.
- It adds the personal touch – communication is much more personal and a good rapport much easier to establish when you can see the other person face-to-face. This makes it much easier to keep conversations going.
- You can identify confusion – it’s much easier to see when one party does not understand what is being said or has an emotional reaction to it if you can see their face. This can be key when negotiating a business deal. It’s also vital during something like a doctor’s appointment. In both cases, it’s critical to know whether both parties have explained themselves properly.
5) It’s ideal for (and used by) almost any industry
Medical and legal organisations are leading the way in the uptake of VRI in their day-to-day operations. But companies in every field are starting to realise the huge benefits of video remote interpreting.
From financial institutions communicating with their international clientele to manufacturers and educational facilities supporting their conferences and lectures with VRI, video remote interpreting is already in use in almost every field.
In the healthcare industry alone, VRI increases the chance of positive patient outcomes, reduces patient risks, decreases medical costs and gives healthcare facilities and insurers the potential for reduced liability.
6) It’s flexible
Because there’s no need to have your linguist get in a plane, train or automobile or for you to buy a lot of equipment to set up VRI, using it is very flexible indeed.
If you don’t have the equipment for in-person interpreting or you need language support in a hurry, VRI is the ideal solution. It can set up in a very short space of time.
7) Distance is no object
Even before social distancing became a phrase in common usage, VRI was making it possible to facilitate communications without parties needing to be in the same space.
With VRI, you can be in completely different cities, countries or even on the far side of the world from the person you want to communicate with.
For businesses based in rural locations or somewhere else off the beaten track, this is perhaps video remote interpreting’s biggest advantage. Companies have even been able to move their offices out of major cities, knowing that even their international communications needs can be met remotely.
This has the added benefit of being great for your green credentials too. No more air miles or carbon footprint being clocked up by your interpreters as they travel to your events around the world.
8) It’s available for a huge array of spoken and signed languages
Asian Absolute alone covers more than 120 spoken languages and dialects with our remote interpreting services. That’s not to mention the sign languages that VRI makes it possible to interpret between, the most common of which in the UK are:
- BSL (British Sign Language)
- SSE (Sign Supported English)
- ISL (Irish Sign Language)
- ASL (American Sign Language)
VRI during pandemics
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important it is to be able to bridge language barriers on demand – particularly in a healthcare setting.
It’s been shown that people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) are likely to be at increased risk when it comes to COVID. This is because they often find it difficult to understand information about the pandemic which is presented to them.
This has been showcased in the US, where a disproportionate number of people being hospitalised or passing away from COVID have LEP. The same is likely true for people with a low level of fluency in the national language of any country they are living in.
VRI is the solution. It allows interpreting services to be delivered in a completely COVID-safe way because language specialists and all parties involved can be in completely separate locations if necessary.
Bringing the benefits of video remote interpreting to your business
Even outside of a pandemic-related situation, businesses in every industry are starting to become aware of the advantages of using video remote interpreting.
Yet for all the ease of the VRI onboarding process, uptake is still relatively slow in some fields and regions. In Australia, for instance, it has been reported that only just over 50% of patients in hospitals who needed an interpreter actually received one.
With COVID providing a ready excuse to get started, and the many benefits of VRI as a reason to continue, the first steps to bringing the benefits of VRI to your business include:
- Assess the cost-savings – if you already use in-person interpreting services, this comparison should be easy. Examine the costs on your previous bill and then request a quote from a Language Service Provider offering VRI or even good old RI without the video. At Asian Absolute, for example, we provide quotes with zero cost or obligation.
- Evaluate barriers to adoption – are there any issues which might prevent you from using your video remote interpreting services in the way you’re picturing? Evaluate these. Or contact your LSP to get them to evaluate them for you. We would provide free advice before you set up your service, for instance.
- Train staff if necessary – almost all VRI software is very easy to use. However, it’s always a good idea to train staff in remote interpreting best practices – here we’re talking about things like enunciating clearly, checking your equipment first, choosing a good background and making sure you’re in a quiet space – to ensure you’re getting the very best from what video remote interpreting has to off your organisation.
Might video remote interpreting benefit your business?
Talk to the experts about it today. Asian Absolute already helps businesses of all sizes connect with their international clients and partners as well as new opportunities.
We have also worked closely with legal and healthcare organisations in many different parts of the world.