Remote simultaneous interpreting is not a sci-fi anymore. New solutions are being used in global corporate events on a daily basis. Although there is still room for improvement, it is there, and it works all fine. This article summarizes my personal experience. I am open to comments and questions from fellow interpreters and also event organizers.
I started conference interpreting in 1999 and even back then, there were romours about super tech gadgets which would enable interpreters work remotely. I remember joining a few tests in early 2000s - terrible, terrible. Remote simultaneous interpreting remained a questionable practice for many fellow interpreters. Criticism included poor audio quality, very bad and intermittent video streaming, reduced control on the event basics, i.e. talking to the audio technician, interacting with event managers in times of crisis, telling the speaker to slow-down, teaming up with your booth partner and also other booths/languages, etc.
Internet was not trustworthy, either. The idea of waiting in front of a computer screen or on the other end of a phone line for eight - ten hours was totally unacceptable (still not). In summary, the old setup was not practicle at all.
Things have changed a lot since then. Now we have fiber / broadband internet in most parts of the world including African continent. Computers are much smarter and much faster.
I started revisiting remote simultaneous interpreting idea at the GALA 2014 Istanbul Conference, where I met Barry Olsen and David Frankel. They introduced me to their revolutionary over the phone interpreting sytem ZipDX. It works just allright, good audio, very reliable connection, affordable rates. No system setup, pay as you go model was ideal for us. I tried it, used it and will use it. Latest version supports up to 50 languages in 48 parallel sessions. That means, ZipDX is capable of digitalizing United Nations level, or NATO grade mega conferences.
This year at the GALA New York Event, I met Kim Ludvigsen, CEO of Interprefy. It offers a website and also a mobile app and enables multilingual video conferencing & remote interpreting. We had follow-up meetings and training sessions for sales and support teams; all went fabolous.
Interprefy app is all your delegates need. It simply replaces conventional conference equipment with an app. Sounds crazy doesn't it? And if your are using a PC, you can join a video conference through Interpefy website. Conference speakers talk to the app, delegates listen on the app and interpreters translate on their PCs. No setup costs - only pay as you go. We love it.
My team at Dragoman tested a few other solutions - some passed our initial screening for community interpreting, but failed for the simultaneous mode.
Here are my take home messages for global event managers:
- Start testing remote interpreting solutions immediately. Choose the right platform for your neeeds and use it. It is a great cost and time saver.
- Learn and advocate the highest quality standards of remote interpreting. Use vendor-approved computers, connectivity devices and audio equipment.
- Remote interpreting is quickly becoming the new normal and transforming the conference industry, just like Skype and WhatsApp did for day-to-day communication.
- Classical conferences will continue but will not grow as it used to do. Not only because of digital technologies but also because of security concerns and also for cost & time saving reasons.
- Remote interpreting also means remote speaking, even better remote delegates (listening). You can literally convene with tens of thousands of people in a dozen languages and spend only a fraction of your typical cost base.
- Once you have your reliable setup in place and train your interpreters, your company can have more frequent and much more productive internal meetings - because everbody can speak their own language. Let nobody feel intimidated or express a lesser shadow of themselves just because they are obliged to talk in English.
- Do not expect interpreters to do the magic and interprete perfectly if the audio is poor, or they are not prepared (because nobody sent them presentations, etc.) or not experienced in your industry/topic.
- Do not expect one interpreter to work alone for more than 60 minutes and do all the job. Conference interpreting is a team work and interpreters work in pairs. Remote interpreting does not change this rule. And I would strongly recommend to hire two interpreters for strategic meetings - even it is shorter than an hour. Save on travel and time, and spend your budget for what matters most.