How Does Remote Interpretation Work?

By Site Admin | Nov 3, 2020
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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt businesses around the world, remote interpretation (aka remote interpreting) has become the preferred method to communicate with foreign business partners via online business meetings, seminars, and conferences. In this article, we will explain what remote interpretation is, its advantages and disadvantages, and the steps required for its execution.




Remote interpretation is interpretation conducted using audio or video-conferencing technology, where some participants are not in the same physical location as each other. Many people use the terms “remote interpretation” (RI) and “remote simultaneous interpretation” (RSI) interchangeably, but in fact, remote interpretation can be performed both simultaneously (aka real time interpretation) or consecutively. Please explore our article in which we explain in details the different modes of interpretation. In this article, we will only focus on remote interpretation in general.

There are three scenarios when it comes to the location of the participants. The interpreter (translator) can sit together with a group of participants while the other participants dial in remotely, the participants can sit together while the interpreter dials in remotely, or the participants and the interpreter can all be located in different places.




1. For clients

        1. For clients not located in major cities, the level and number of local interpreters are generally low. Remote interpretation allows the client to reach out to higher-quality interpreters or interpreters for rare language pairs.
  1. Remote interpretation is useful for short-notice meetings or hospital emergencies, etc. when an interpreter is needed immediately and there is no on-site interpreter. It is also the preferred method to interpret during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. If the event organizers hire interpreters from a different location, they will have to cover the travel and accommodation costs for them. With remote interpretation, there is no need to travel and companies will save a huge sum of money. We have covered this in the article How To Find a Reliable and Affordable Interpreter for a Business Meeting, Exhibition or Seminar?.
  3. Clients can reach to the interpreters in developing areas to further cut down costs. In addition to the location, other factors also determine the price you pay an interpreter. To find out more, please visit our article How Much Does It Cost To Hire an Interpreter?.


2. For interpreters

  1. Remote interpretation allows the interpreters to reach out to a larger and more global market. Furthermore, interpreters may be able to quote a higher rate. By the way, a very common question from the interpreters when doing remote interpretation is: What is the suitable rate to offer? Unfortunately, remote interpretation is a fairly new concept so there is no standard rate. But given the same interpretation type, language pair, and pricing unit (daily, half-day, or evening rate), the price will depend on the location of the event or the clients. In particular, clients in developed countries or working for multinational corporations (MNCs) or international organizations have a higher budget yet demand higher interpretation quality and professionalism. You can read more at our How much does it cost to hire an interpreter article.
  2. Remote interpretation offers more flexible working hours and the possibility of working from home even if the interpreters live in remote areas.
  3. When the interpreter is not with the participants, it may be easier to concentrate on the interpreting task and not become emotionally affected by the situation being discussed.
  4. The interpreter may use tools such as dictionaries, Internet searches on his computer while on the job.




1. The quality of interpretation may be lower

In his book Body Language, Julius Fast showed that when non-verbal and verbal communications conflict, body language can reveal the true meaning of a communication. When it comes to remote interpretation, there is a lack of visual communication components as the interpreter has only a partial view of the speaker and the venue. As such, the interpreter may not understand fully what the speakers want to convey. In the case of audio-only remote interpretation, the interpreter is even more clueless about the speaker’s facial expressions. The lack of eye contact, emotion, and body gestures may also make the presenters repeat themselves because they are not sure whether the listeners are getting the full message.


2. Equipment and software may have issues


Compared to on-site interpretation, remote interpretation requires a more complicated equipment setup, which may lead to higher budget and execution risks. For example, poor internet connection may cause delays or echoes in audio and video quality, while computer crashes and issues with microphones or speakers can abruptly stop the event. One common problem is that the microphone is often fixed in one position, causing poor sound quality from presenters who are sitting far from it. This short and hilarious video below will give you examples of the most common technical issues that can happen in an online meeting.


3. The event’s time may be longer

To make sure the event happens smoothly, the event organizers must spend time to set up and test the equipment before the event starts. For example, they may need to update the latest version of the video conference software before using it.

During the event, more time may be required to reconnect to the Internet, re-setup the microphones, headphones or computers, etc. As mention above, poor connection can cause low sound quality, so the speakers may need to repeat their messages, making the event longer than it should be.

Finally, in a remote interpretation event where speakers do not see each other or just see each other partially, they can miss when a presenter has finished talking and are uncertain about who should be talking next. That will lead to long pauses, interruption, and overlapping talks, which is demonstrated in the same video we showed above. Consequently, more time will be needed to facilitate the turn-taking between the participants.




1. For clients

To ensure the success of a remote interpretation event, the organizers need to prepare:

  1. Fast computers and high-quality webcam and microphone.
    • When fewer than 5 participants are sitting close to each other, a single webcam and a centrally-placed microphone-speaker device may be used.