Is remote simultaneous interpretation here to stay?

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A man holding a headset

Imagine that it’s 2019, and we've asked you to describe the word “event.” What comes to mind? Probably, large in-person conferences or in-person business meetings.

What about 2020? Possibly something in the lines of Zoom fatigue: figuring out how to have online work meetings, canceling live events, rescheduling conferences, experiencing heavy losses.

It’s 2021 now. Many acknowledge that there is no going back to the “2019 normal” for the event industry. But what about remote simultaneous interpretation (RSI)? Is it here to stay once the pandemic is finally over?

What do trends show?

First, let's uncover some of the main trends to help you better grasp current use cases and applications of remote simultaneous interpretation.

Remote is not suitable for every use case

Compared to the pre-pandemic world, an independent market research company CSA Research now estimates a 14% growth in remote interpreting. The main reasons behind this rise belong to the simultaneous interpretation sector.

Before taking this number too far, we should consider that there are many types of interpretation, each with its own unique role and basis for working conditions. Some of the interpreting modes, like travel, whispered, or liaison interpretation, cannot be included in this whopping statistic.

Simultaneous interpreters are now on the rise and are able to break down the language barriers remotely. But let's take a step back to remind ourselves why that is possible and what simultaneous interpretation services offer.

What is simultaneous interpretation?

Simultaneous interpretation is a way of transforming spoken speech from one language to another in just a few seconds.

Let's think of a consecutive interpretation first to make a simple comparison. There is always a language pair to work with – a source language (usually, the interpreter relies on his native language) and a target language. The consecutive interpreter listens to the speaker in his native language and aims to transform his speech in different languages based on the audience's choice.

This happens in soundproof booths, where each interpreter listens to what the speaker is saying, reviews his conference materials at the same time, takes a few quick notes, but still remains in full concentration. When the speaker takes a break after a sentence or two – interpretation happens. Thus, event participants receive the speech in the target language by consecutive interpreting, where the flow of the speech is continuously interrupted by pauses.

Consecutive interpreters wouldn't be the best fit for time-sensitive events. But it is as it sounds – a simultaneous interpreter makes interpretation simultaneous. No pauses appear between simultaneous interpreters and speakers, thus making them perfect for conferences! Everything happens in real-time, between multiple languages.

Due to such professional language services, large-scale events quickly adapted this way of interpretation. United Nations, European Union, and other similar clients quickly understood that remote simultaneous interpretation provides a lot of possibilities, and we just have to make use of it.

Where wouldn't remote interpretation work?

As excited as we can be about the rapid development of remote simultaneous interpretation platforms and the advancement of the many features we have to offer, we humbly acknowledge this simple fact over and over again. We also review other forms of interpretation and see if they can ensure remote adaptations and further growth and development.

Technology is not perfect for all interpretation types

Especially for travel, liaison, and whispered interpreting, whose effectiveness relies heavily on in-person interaction and non-verbal cues in real life. Even though these types of verbal translation also guarantee correct communication between the clients, it is simply hard to imagine a way where such an interpreter converts the speech virtually.

But remote simultaneous interpretation is helpful for many

COVID-19 pandemic is not the reason for remote simultaneous interpreting to have an unexpected boom. The pandemic acted simply as an accelerator for simultaneous interpreting to test the remote waters.

Over the past year, many organizations, like the European Commission and United Nations, tested remote simultaneous interpretation and concluded – it works.

Remote simultaneous interpreting works as a bridge to the new markets, as an opportunity to expand networks with every best certified simultaneous interpreter worldwide, and as a way to diversify your audience despite the geographical barriers.

Remote simultaneous interpreting will keep evolving

Like all good things in life, remote interpreting will keep evolving. But often, we forget what question we’re really asking.

“Will remote simultaneous interpreting, as we know it this very second, stay the same after the pandemic and won’t change at all?”

If that’s your question, we can say with certainty that the answer is NO. But if you’re wondering whether remote simultaneous interpreting is here to stay, progress, and keep pushing the capabilities of the event industry, the answer is YES.

In October 2020, AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters, wrote that the future is hybrid, and a switch to remote applications can ensure a sustainable future where physical, in-person events go hand in hand with virtual meetings.

Hybrid events will enable the multilingual audience to stay at the same location or connect virtually and listen to the content in their own language, doesn't matter how rare it is! Remote simultaneous interpretation platforms will ensure flawless oral translation by providing extensive vocabulary in all of the target languages.

The language industry will also grow considerably

Even before the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a report foreseeing a 19% employment growth for interpreters and translators from 2018 to 2028. This is a much faster rate compared to other professions, and, at first glance, the reason for it is apparent – increasing globalization and more diverse populations in need of interpretation.

However, we have an additional explanation. Remote simultaneous interpretation providers simplify the process of organizing multilingual events. This way, event organizers can easily introduce interpretation to their attendees, helping them connect and understand each other better.

Even if the participants share the same second language, they find it easier to express themselves in their mother tongue. Having interpretation available at the meeting encourages everyone to equally share ideas, ensure effective communication, and avoid language-related misunderstandings.

Seeing the higher engagement and greater satisfaction of their participants, many event organizers admit that interpretation is not a premium add-on but an obvious necessity in multicultural communication. That’s why we expect to collaborate with more and more qualified, certified interpreters and translators in the future.

New challenges for RSI providers to solve

The event industry keeps evolving with virtual events, introducing new challenges that were not experienced before. It brings challenges to the world of remote simultaneous interpretation that we are yet to solve.

Facing the lack of direct communication

For example, a recent article in Irish Educational Studies tackles the role of conferences in the pandemic and post-pandemic world. It highlights the most significant limitation of online events and conferences: “absence felt through the lack of face-to-face interaction, conversation, networking, and congregation.” We can feel it everywhere – even in the small meetings.

Ensuring security in remote simultaneous interpretation platforms

In the same article, conference organizers name security and safety information as one of their biggest concerns. Event organizers often mention the process of “zoombombing” as a common threat – it occurs when uninvited guests join an event and disrupt its natural flow.

Making RSI inclusive for everyone

Additionally, experts raise concerns about disadvantaged and non-tech savvy attendees joining virtual events. With little prior access to technology and a lack of background knowledge, participants are less likely to get a full event experience. Remote simultaneous interpretation platforms and their technical support teams have to ensure that each interpretation system is accessible and works equally for all participants.

Addressing the need for engagement tools

For some, these challenges intensify the need for more advanced product features like live polling, interactive Q&A sessions, immediate post-event statistics, and surveys promoting engagement and inclusivity.

Remote simultaneous interpretation platforms already have a lot of these tools. However, the truth is simple – we still need to increase engagement, and that is why we constantly consult with our customers on ways to improve.

To wrap up

In short – there are no doubts that RSI will stay. It might not be perfect in all of the cases at the moment, as it is still a pretty recent technology. Yet, with collaboration, customer feedback, and industry professionals' efforts to make it better, RSI is on its way to doing much more than just breaking the language barriers.

It now takes the responsibility to educate, foster conversation, and continue developing the technology with the hope of making physical, hybrid, and virtual events a safer, more welcoming space for people who don’t speak the same language.

If you wish to get more insights on the topic, head over to our interview on the RSI future with the industry professional, Uroš Peterc.

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Published on

Sep 2, 2021

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