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Is remote simultaneous interpretation here to stay?

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7 min

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

What about 2020? 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 acknowledged that there is no going back to the “2019 normal” for the event industry. 

But what about RSI? 

Is remote simultaneous interpretation here to stay once the pandemic is finally over? 

What do trends show? 

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. 

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. 

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. 

Technology is not perfect. 

Especially for travel, whispered, or liaison interpreters whose work effectiveness relies heavily on in-person interaction and non-verbal cues in real life. 

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 interpreting and concluded - it works. 

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

Remote interpreting will keep evolving 

Like all good things in life, remote interpreting will keep evolving. 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 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. 

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. 

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.” 

In the same article, conference organizers name security 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. 

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. 

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. 

For us at Interactio, the challenges brought up in the event industry remind us how much responsibility remote simultaneous interpretation providers really have. The responsibility to educate, to foster conversation, and to continue developing our 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. 

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Published on

September 2, 2021

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