Distance Interpreting (DI) and Remote Interpreting (RI) - are they really just the same thing?

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Today’s globalized world requires adapting to different cultures and languages quicker and with more accuracy. There’s an incredible complexity when it comes to translating and interpreting various languages for better collaboration with each other. 

To solve this, current practices have equipped professional interpreters with the skills and the precise knowledge necessary to mediate between parties that don’t share the same language and to capture even the most subtle cultural differences when it comes to word use and delivery. 

Yet the new media platforms arising in today’s digital world, including teleconferencing and live streaming, have challenged traditional notions of what it means to interpret between two or even multiple parties. 

As such, interpreters have now developed skills in the form of distance interpreting and remote interpreting that allow them to manage and disseminate information wherever the parties may be located, using these very same new technologies. 

Breaking down Distance Interpreting and Remote Interpreting

Since these developments are relatively recent, there’s been a bit of confusion regarding the two main classifications that envelop these interpretation methods. While the two terms - Distance Interpreting (DI) and Remote Interpreting (RI) - may sound interchangeable, we’ll walk you through what exactly makes them distinct as well as the key qualities that define each.

Distance interpreting 

Distance interpreting is the catch-all term for these new methods for interpreters to mediate between conversations of users who are not in the same location. 

Since distance interpreting is a catch-all term, remote interpreting is a subgroup within the overall distance interpreting tree of practices. Distance interpreting can be broken down into two inner categories: Direct View and No Direct View.

Meaning, one-half of distance interpreting can be best understood when viewed through the teleconferencing scenario of a distant speaker, with the interpreter and audience participating in-person. Hence, the term “Direct View” pertains to the interpreter’s view of the participants in the meeting. 

Remote interpreting

Remote interpreting falls under the broad category of what defines distant interpretation as the new area of delivery by interpreters. While we touched on the first half of distance interpreting, mediating between a remote or distant speaker but still maintaining a full direct view of the participants in the meeting, the other half deals with the “No Direct View” interpretation.

“No Direct View” is essentially remote interpreting, which indicates that all the interpreting and conversational aspects happen remotely, from the interpreter to speakers and attendees. 

Meaning, remote interpreting generally encapsulates many forms of interpretation that have come to light due to the recent boost in usage of videoconferencing.

If the scenario includes the interpreter not having a direct view of either speakers or participants in the conference (such as a fully remote videoconference chat on Zoom or Microsoft Teams), this indicates remote interpreting.


Distance interpreting (DI) and Remote Interpreting (RI)

Distance interpreting vs. remote interpreting 

Since distance interpreting works as the umbrella term for remote interpretation and videoconferencing interpretation, remote interpreting essentially has more in common with distance interpreting than the other way around. 

Distance interpreting with the direct view encapsulates the total Teleconference Interpreting (or TCI), which focuses on the interpreter having a direct view of the participants while the speakers present remotely. The remoteness of the speaker can be categorized either through a video-mediated method or purely audio.

While all remote interpreting is essentially distance interpreting, not all distance interpreting is considered remote interpreting. The essential difference here is the location and presence of the interpreter with respect to the speakers and participants in the meeting. 

Remote interpreting, as we briefly touched on, indicates that the speaker, interpreter, and participants in an event are remote from each other. This limits the amount of multi-sensory information that the interpreter receives.

Remote interpreting has taken many different forms in today’s world. One of the more prevalent ones is the multiscreen video remote interpreting, where all participants, including the speaker and the interpreter, are present on a videoconference call remotely. 

Other types of remote interpretation include fully audio remote interpreting and single screen video remote interpreting of just the speaker and no participatory views. 

Naturally, the interpreter has some sort of ICT-mediated view of the speaker. Still, some aspects of interpretation may be lost in the transmission, which may hamper the interpreter’s ability to fully and accurately transmit the message.

Why are differences between DI and RI important?

While the differences between distance interpreting and remote interpreting may seem to lay in semantics, there is a key aspect to interpretation that affects the accuracy of message delivery: multi-sensory signals. 

Professional interpretation considers the different variables that come into play during multilingual conversations, such as non-verbal facial expressions and reactions, the explicit and implicit meaning of the message, as well as the cultural delivery and receiving of the message as a whole. 

Distance interpretation and remote interpretation help distinguish among the different types of mediation methods between the speaker and participants to prepare for the scenario beforehand. 

Each meeting mode of delivery, such as videoconferences versus teleconferences, creates specific situations that interpreters need to be mindful of.

Regular conference holders across different cultures and languages need to consider the presence and absence of certain multi-sensory signals with each interpretation type to get the best possible delivery of the message across all possible participants. 

Summing up

Distance interpreting and remote interpreting are new techniques that consistently seek refinement. Yet, the advances in current communication technologies have enabled many companies and interpreters to improve some multi-sensory signal absences through better sound quality, smoother call latency, and higher video fidelity. 

As the technology continues to improve, expect the types of interpretation to follow suit not far behind.

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Published on

Jan 5, 2022

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