How does distance interpreting over the phone work?

With the development of modern technology, the way of communicating in the field of interpreting is gradually moving into other areas. We’re talking about remote interpreting, which is specific in that at least one of the participants in the interpreting process is located in a different place than the others. Although there is nothing like face-to-face contact, especially in this profession, there are situations where this form of interpreting is necessary. What are the pros and cons of telephone interpreting and how does it work?

Where did remote interpreting come from?

The origins of interpreting over the phone date back to the early 1970s in Australia, from where it spread across the world via the United States. It’s used when one of the participants (interpreter, client, or business partner) is not present in person at the conversation or meeting. It is used by small businesses and large corporations as well as individuals, and is always done in both directions, i.e. from the foreign language into the native language and vice versa.

Currently, there is a growing demand for interpreting via videoconferencing through various communication platforms, which is on the one hand a consequence of the pandemic situation, and on the other hand a development of online technology that makes the whole communication easier and faster.

Remote interpreting: How does it work and what forms can it take?

As already mentioned, when interpreting over the phone or as a videoconference, one of the participants is physically absent and therefore modern technology needs to be involved. Whether it is a conventional telephone, a mobile device, or a computer depends largely on whether it is an interpretation that needs to be carried out immediately or a pre-arranged interpretation. In both cases, it involves consecutive interpreting, where the interpreting is done in short and simple segments.

Pre-arranged interpreting

This form is undoubtedly more convenient and comfortable for all parties involved, as they can prepare properly and know what to expect. The interpreter usually interprets from home or from his/her office, but there may also be situations where the client invites the interpreter to the company’s headquarters from where he/she interprets for a third party. Most often this involves business negotiations and communication with foreign partners, but criminal proceedings, immigration matters, or social service issues are no exception.

Express remote interpreting

The form of express interpreting requires a certain amount of patience, especially from a party who needs to find an interpreter as soon as possible. This is because they are not always immediately available, especially in less common languages. However, the search usually takes only tens of minutes, or, if the situation is not urgent, express interpreting can be arranged for later in the day.

Examples of this form of interpreting include interpreting abroad related to the loss of documents, accidents, or criminal activity. In our practice, we often provide interpreting over the phone when a client needs to deal with a situation urgently. This is usually interpreting for insurance companies in emergency situations abroad such as a car accident or hospitalization.

Advantages and disadvantages of interpreting over the phone

There are pros and cons to everything, and this also applies to remote interpreting. Its main advantages include accessibility and the speed with which the necessary information can be passed between the parties involved. It is also less expensive and more flexible as the interpreter (and the client) does not have to travel to a specific location. Also, equipment costs are almost negligible as no special interpreting equipment is needed.

The disadvantages of remote interpreting include the risk of poor connection quality, whether it is a mobile signal or an internet connection or ambient noise, and in the case of telephone interpreting without video the interpreter cannot react to non-verbal communication, which is very important in this profession. It is also necessary to ensure that the sections being translated are clear and understandable so that there are no unnecessary misunderstandings, which could be fatal.

Do you need to quickly find an interpreter to translate a business meeting or a meeting with the authorities, courts, or an insurance company abroad? No matter whether you are in Brno, Seoul, or Washington, our translation agency is here for you wherever you are.


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