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online interpreting solutions


view from the booth

Right now, the world is upside down. Actually, it is outside in – and interpreting, especially the conference, business, and diplomatic types, has momentarily ground to a halt.

It is no longer safe to travel, meet face-to-face, or, in some places, even leave the house. So, our usual ways of working that had us interpreters roaming the globe are no longer viable.

Remote interpreting, and remote simultaneous interpreting in particular, has been waiting at the starting line for quite some time, ready for what we thought was going to be a three-to-five-year marathon. Instead, the starter pistol that is COVID-19 has it catching up with a sprint.

For the past month and a half, I have been answering question after question from clients seeking to move their meetings and events online while maintaining some sense of normality.

I say to them what I am about to write here next: in times of crisis, transparency is the best policy.

Broadly speaking, there are currently three types of remote interpreting solutions available in the market.

Makeshift solutions

These are online meeting platforms, such as GoToMeeting, Zoom or Microsoft Teams, or video-calling services such as Skype, WebEx, and Google Hangouts combined with consecutive interpreting.

Sometimes, companies create parallel sessions on the same services in order to have 'separate audio channels' for simultaneous translation.

It goes without saying that these solutions are far from ideal as they do not have proper virtual interpreting booths, or control over audio input or output.

Purpose-built solutions

Purpose-built interpreting solutions have been created and designed to facilitate remote/virtual simultaneous interpreting for live, online, or mixed (live + online) events. Currently, the most well-known and widely used solutions are those outlined below.

ZipDX was one of the first solutions to step into the market years ago. It adds simultaneous interpreting capabilities to phone conferencing. The setup is simple, and it only requires access to working phones and phone lines.

Meanwhile, Interactio is a virtual interpreting booth that mimics the traditional consoles we use in the booth. It was created to provide remote simultaneous interpreting for live events and has now adapted its technology so it can be connected to online events instead of live ones. Therefore, it is usually used in combination with other online meeting platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts.

The setup for interpreters is simple, as we only need to connect to their interpreter console. Event participants, however, need to have two devices available or be tech-savvy enough to open parallel tabs on their browsers, as they attend the main event on the meeting platform but listen to the interpretation through Interactio’s app or its web version.

Finally, VoiceBoxer is a meeting platform with an embedded virtual booth that is an all-in-one solution. The setup is simple and the same both for participants and interpreters, as everybody connects to the same platform and is assigned different roles: moderator, participant, or interpreter.

Solutions from Large LSPs

Of these large companies, there are two currently offering online conference interpreting: KUDO and Interprefy. They own and provide online meeting platforms with embedded virtual booths and keep a list of registered interpreters who are authorised to work with them or hire their platforms as partners.

In my opinion, deciding which tech solution to use has to be determined on a case-by-case basis, as no solution fits all scenarios, and clients have differing budgets and needs.

However, it is our responsibility as professional interpreters to know and understand the technology available to us, and be fully prepared to use it as best we can.

Having the right cables, headsets, microphones, and a quiet room to work in is important. So is ensuring proper working conditions, acceptable rates, and legal payment terms.

Our world has been turned upside down, inside in, and shaken all around.

Let us not be the makeshift link in a longer chain.


** Article originally published in the LRG Newsletter, May 2020


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