The challenge of remote interpretation

Published on 07/08/2020

When I started my Master's Degree in Conference Interpretation, I never thought that I would end up interpreting the last few months remotely and from home. The Covid-19 has infiltrated our lives, changing them completely, and in the world of interpretation it was not going to be any different. As I mentioned, I am finishing the Master's Degree (remotely) and tomorrow I will be interpreting a conference for the final exam that I have been preparing for a week, the topic: Interpreting after Covid-19. So I would like to take advantage of the background material that I have obtained from the speaker, Dr Heike Lamberger-Felber to explain a little about the course of a remote interpretation assignment.

1. Interpreting new paradigm: remote interpretation

Interpreting new paradigm: remote interpretation

When we think of interpreters, we normally think of people who are always travelling from one part of the world to another to communicate between cultures, but the reality we are experiencing is very different and the interpretation market is becoming more and more diversified. How do interpreters and translation agencies offering interpretation services work at a time when conferences are held virtually? With remote simultaneous interpretation.

2. What is remote simultaneous interpretation?

What is remote simultaneous interpretation

It is that kind of simultaneous interpretation, in which the production of the target oral text (interpretation) takes place in a different place than the production of the original oral text (discourse) using information and communication technologies. This method of working makes it possible to protect both the health and well-being of interpreters and public health, while continuing to offer a quality service that complies with professional ethics and confidentiality and guarantees the security of information and data.

3. Steps to follow in a remote simultaneous interpretation assignment

Steps to follow in a remote simultaneous interpretation assignment

In remote simultaneous interpreting, both the speaker and the interpreter need to have a working environment free of sources of interference and with good acoustics, a secure connection with good upload and download speed, data protection that does not allow unauthorized access and technical support that monitors the conference from start to finish to solve, at any time, possible technical problems.

3.1. Technical considerations for remote interpretation

Technical considerations for remote interpretation

To be able to carry out an assignment of this type, we must first consider the technical considerations, i.e. which platform or system of remote interpretation we are going to use to carry out our conference, since there are several platforms that offer an integrated system of remote simultaneous interpretation, for example: Zoom Meetings, Interprefy, Interpretcloud, Interactio, Voiceboxer, Webswitcher, WebEX, etc.

If the platform we want to use to hold the conference does not have a remote interpretation system, we will not be able to work with it. The platforms that include a remote interpretation system are usually paid, so if we do not have one, there is the possibility of renting a license with a technical service included. This option is the most economical and effective if we do not intend to hold conferences that require frequent interpretation. In any case, whatever option you choose, it is advisable to always have the assistance of a technician for what might arise.

3.2. Contractual considerations of remote interpretation

Contractual considerations of remote interpretation

Once we have decided on a platform, we move on to contractual considerations. As with all interpreting assignments, working conditionsmust be established and approved by the interpreter. There are also interpreters and translation agencies that establish their own conditions, which you will need to accept in order to sign a contract. But the most important thing to bear in mind is the liability for compensation. As customers, we need to be aware that when he or she arranges an event on a specific day with an interpreter, the interpreter refuses all offers that might be made for that day and that might be of interest or more convenient. With this in mind, if, as clients, we cancel the event, the interpreter will have to be compensated for the day's work lost. The rule that usually applies is, the later it is cancelled, the higher the compensation fee to be paid. So it's good to know for sure that the event is going to take place.

3.3. Pre-interpretation check meeting

Pre-interpretation check meeting

Once the issue of the platform, the legal conditions and the liability for compensation have been resolved, the conference will be held. The first step that must be organised is a previous meeting to the event with the organiser, the technician and the interpreters. This involves testing the platform, the sound and image quality, making tests so that everything works perfectly on the day of the conference without interruptions or technical problems. Thus, if the interpreter has any questions that he or she would like to raise with the organizers, he or she could also do so at this meeting.

When the conference is over, the translation agency that handled the assignment will send a technical verification form to the organizers and technicians to verify the correct technical functioning of the conference. A feedback form will also be sent to the interpreter and participants to evaluate the experience. This ensures that everyone present is satisfied with the work done.

4. Compliance with ISO standards on remote simultaneous interpretation

Compliance with ISO standards on remote simultaneous interpretation

Ideally, we should know about the ISO 20108 on image and sound quality, as well as ISO 24019-2020 on remote simultaneous interpretation platforms and comply with data protection standards through closed, partially closed or codec-encrypted systems. Everyone who attends and participates in our event should also be informed about the equipment needed to participate in the conference.

5. Conclusion


Communication is more than an image and a sound signal, it involves having a good mood and dynamics, unofficial meetings, getting information on site and maintaining direct contact between clients and interpreters. All that is no longer part of our new normality, but who said that we interpreters are not ready to face new challenges?

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