Stay at Home! 


As countries around the world go into lockdown, everyone is thinking about how to navigate a new world of business where in-person meetings are no longer possible. 

This week, for the first time, we provided simultaneous interpreting services remotely. We were able to interpret for a longstanding client during their annual directors meeting. 

I’m sure many of my fellow interpreters are looking at remote interpreting with renewed interest. It seems the inevitable spread of this technology has been accelerated by the current health crisis. 

Estimates on how long isolation practices will be in place vary. While we obviously hope things will go back to normal sooner rather than later, we are grateful to live in a time when this technology is viable and widely available. Let’s have a look at the landscape. 



The Lingo


RSI, VRI. As always, with any new subject there is new lingo. In this instance, RSI stands for Remote Simultaneous Interpreting. This includes the common scenario of an interpreter booth at a conference as well as an off-site interpreter. VRI is Video Remote Interpreting. In this instance the interpreter is at a different location from the speaker and attendees. Although they have different technical definitions, many people use the terms interchangeably.



Interpreter-specific or general?


There are two basic categories of platforms that we are considering. The first consists of interpreter-specific software: Voiceboxer, Interprefy, Lingualie, and Kudo. This software is built specifically for interpreters and may or may not integrate with presentations on another platform. 

The second category consists of products like Zoom or Webex that are used more generally for remote meetings. Since these are not designed for interpreters some of the necessary features may be a little more difficult to sort out. For example, the platform may support two separate audio streams, but it may not be super intuitive to find. 





We are stil trying out different platforms and participating in demos. As remote simultaneous interpreting is new for us, it’s exciting to see what is available. 

In general, here are the things we are keeping in mind. 

Technical support: 
  • What technical support is offered for a client who may be unfamiliar with a platform? Will the service provider be able to troubleshoot (so I don’t have to)?
  • How available is support if I’m the one having trouble? 
Number of participants: 
  • What is the maximum number of participants for a single session? 
  • Does the pricing change based on this number?
  • Is the cost entirely upfront or is it by session? 
  • Is time used counted as a whole? Per participant?
Interpreter view:
  • What does the screen look like when I am working? Do I have a clear view of the speaker?
  • Is there flexibility in what the setup looks like?
  • Are there shortcut buttons to ask the speaker to slow down, signal the need for handover, etc.? 
  • Is the software a closed-service platform? Meaning, does it require the speaker to present using the platform?
  • If it integrates with other platforms, what does this look like? Is it obvious to the end user?


Other considerations



Using HIPAA compliant software is an important consideration if you plan to do medical interpreting. There are several platforms specifically for telehealth. It is likely that the medical provider you are working with will have a license for a particular platform, but they are worth getting familiar with if this is your area of specialty. 



Most interpreter-specific platforms require a wired (ethernet) internet connection. While the others generally do not, having one is good practice. A presenter might not notice if you lose connection, but your listeners certainly will! 





Soundproofing your work space will be necessary regardless of which platform you choose to work with. If working from a quiet office some noise-dampening fabric hung around your workspace may be enough. Try doing a couple of test recordings to see what the ambient noise levels are like. Sounds that might not get picked up on a phone call might register when using a microphone. 

Take note of noise levels at times like rush hour. Do ambulances regularly pass your window? Is the air conditioning loud and/or erratic?

If you are planning on working from home make sure everyone in the house is aware of when they are and are not allowed in your workspace. 



See for yourself


Explore and book demos here:









For my fellow interpreters: Do you have a favorite platform to work with? What features seem most useful or important? Do you plan on continuing to offer VRI services after quarantine restrictions are lifted?