Remote Interpretation


I would not pretend now that I’ve always been fond of technical gadgets and online interpreting and that I am happy beyond myself to be able to work from home, with a cat on my lap. I am as uncomfortable in the new settings as you are but I had to figure out the online platforms and technical solutions over the past month since all my work migrated online.

This is what the workplace of most of us looks like

Find below my insights about the options to use online interpretation in the current conditions. The remote interpreting didn’t appear now, it has existed for decades. Almost everyone who has a need for interpretation tried it by phone, a speakerphone, messengers and via Skype.

Me too, I interpreted several times on the phone, through the speakerphone and via Skype, and I have a couple of years in my interpreting history of regular assignments for a working group with a video on Skype, when I interpreted on Viber to a person on Skype, with an earbud in one ear and an overhead sound in another ear.

You might see now why I was not a fan of remote interpretation.

Quite often, this was not perfect but the function of urgent communication was always successfully delivered. As often as not, it was delivered at the cost of the interpreter’s nerve cells, it strained the ear membranes and you had to get through to the sense across the crackle of the sound and other participants on the call trying to eagerly speak on top of the interpreter. In the last three years, there was plenty of work offers, and I rejected such orders because I could not ensure quality.

However, now there is just no chance for in-person meetings or negotiations. As to businesses, they are still there, although few. So is the need for interpretation with foreign partners and colleagues.

However, over the past three years, the idea of remote simultaneous interpretation (RSI) has evolved, it has long been tried and tested, and any failing experiences stayed in the past. Moreover, the development of video-enabled online conferencing platforms has also made interpretation possible.

There are four options in stock:


  1. The most expensive, reliable and recommended option for simultaneous interpreting: paid remote interpreting platforms. Fees range from $200 to $770 per hour, and from $350 to $2,225 per day, depending on the platform. Many of them are taking over the technical side of the meeting. This solution has been actively developing over the past four years. The Ukrainian representative office of one of the platforms, Speakus, now has special offers for lockdown time: $146 per day, $127 per half-day, and $117 per hour.
  2. In any online meeting programs authorized by your company, you can have simultaneous interpreting: listen to the speaker in one program and interpret to another, for those who need the interpretation. Or, you can simply use an audio option of messengers. You can also listen to the speaker from any messenger and interpret into a video conference. Technically, it is a fairly simple option with its own features but if you do it on a regular basis, you can master it and choose a combination that best fits your requirements.
  3. Let me highlight a new simultaneous interpretation function inZoom, it costs $54.99 per month. In fact, these are two channels in one interface. Listeners who need it interpreted listen to the interpreting channel, others will stick to the original channel. And it can be managed in one platform. The idea is new, it is still rolling but the risks are generally the same as in an online meeting without interpretation: you may get disconnected, you may need to dial again, sometimes the sound disappears, or the video slows down.
  4. The most proletarian option is to make the best use of anything that fits the conversation needs. So, it will fit the consecutive interpreting. It takes twice as long but requires no technical skills at all. For example, I had a short consecutive interpreting on WhatsApp, on the phone, without a headset and with the mobile Internet. Excellent sound quality, when disconnected, the messenger reconnects itself, and there we go on.

That’s about it. Yes, indeed, a human is a social animal, and none of us like it all now. But this is a psychological barrier per se, whereas technical solutions have been out there. Life goes on, and business activities continue even now, so there is no other choice. If you need to communicate with a partner from abroad and continue to get your business or project going, there is the option of using remote interpreting.

If you wait too long until the lockdown ends, you may go bankrupt or even die.

I myself was surprised at how far we had come from speakerphones and Skype interpreting. Any programs for online meetings can be used for consecutive interpreting, any of these.

After all, the new online lifestyle has its own advantages: video recording of the meeting, chats, broadcasts, in some programs you can share documents and share the screen.

Let’s explore these new uncharted online spaces together and not let the crisis interfere with our ambitious plans.

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