Telephone interpreting might have been created in response to an emergency situation, but it has quickly become a highly specialized language service in its own right.
It was first introduced in Australia in 1973, during a time when the country was dealing with large-scale immigration. This prompted the Department of Immigration to set up a telephone interpreting service to enable new arrivals to communicate with public authorities despite being unable to speak English.
The usefulness of the service was immediately apparent, and so – as soon as technology costs allowed – it was quickly adopted elsewhere in the world.
Telephone interpreting has evolved and progressed over time, with professional interpreters working in a range of different specialized fields, such as medicine, business, law and journalism.
Later, as new technology was developed, telephone interpreting was joined by its better-known cousin video conference interpreting, which is both similar to and different from its predecessor.
Over the phone or by video call
Telephone and video conference interpreting share many characteristics. Both use technology (telephones or computers) to enable people in different locations, speaking different languages, to interact with the help of an interpreter.
And both offer an array of advantages compared to conventional, in-person interpreting.
First of all, using a service offered by professionals living in other countries means you can access any language combination. There are huge logistical challenges to finding an interpreter of a rare language in a specific geographical area, so technology allows you to remove that headache and work with a professional based in another country.
On top of that, there are fewer hardware requirements now. The amount and type of equipment needed has been greatly simplified. While in-person assignments often require interpreting booths to be set up, all you need for video conference interpreting is a computer, some headphones and the right software – and for telephone interpreting a smartphone is the only thing you need.
Despite these similarities, though, it’s important to take two key factors into account every time you pick the most suitable interpreting service for you:
- the number of participants
- the level of urgency
Telephone interpreting is the best choice if there are only two participants, but video conference interpreting works better if there are more people involved.
The number of participants also affects the interpreting technique used. In the first case, with just two participants, consecutive interpreting is used – the interpreter translates during the pause after each speaker has said their piece. But in the second case, simultaneous interpreting is generally the preferred option (the interpreter translates while the speaker is talking, with a tiny delay but virtually simultaneously).
Telephone interpreting may also be preferable in particularly urgent situations, such as when the service is requested at very short notice. It can be delivered without much warning, unlike video conference interpreting, which requires preliminary technical checks to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
The costs of telephone and virtual interpreting
The costs of telephone interpreting vary based on the languages required and the duration of the event.
But in any case, remote interpreting significantly lowers costs because it reduces equipment outlays and eliminates all interpreter travel expense.
However, the fact that this form of interpreting is agile and user-friendly doesn’t mean that anybody can provide the service.
A telephone interpreter must have a deep understanding of both languages, on top of the subject matter of the assignment. One of the biggest difficulties for any interpreter is the use of technical terminology by speakers. In-depth research and ongoing preparation are required in order to overcome this challenge and ensure an interpreter can do a good job of facilitating communication between the two parties.
Furthermore, the absence of visual contact is another factor that makes telephone interpreting all the trickier.
We all know that communication is about much more than what comes out of our mouths – facial expressions and body language are both crucial elements that can alter the meaning of what is being said. Without the ability to draw on these elements, it’s even more important that interpreters be properly qualified and highly experienced if your telephone interpreting assignment is going to succeed.
Preparation, research and passion are key.
Here at Way2Global, we have a team of native-speaker interpreters who specialize in various forms of interpreting and areas of expertise, all familiar with the latest technology used in the field. As such, we can guarantee impeccable service, whether it be in-person, online or telephone interpreting.
Thanks to the experience and support of our project managers, we can advise clients on the most suitable form of interpreting for each need. And once that step is complete, it’s over to the professional expertise of our interpreters, backed by unrivalled technical support for the duration of the event.
Need an interpreting service? Get in touch!