Simultaneous Interpreting (SI) is the interpretation of speech from one language to another whilst said speech is in progress. It’s a highly skilled task as it involves thinking quickly in two languages and often calls for an in-depth knowledge of specialized terminology.
In the past, simultaneous interpreting was something that was generally done in person. The interpreter would be present at the event, meeting or conference to facilitate communication, often located in a purpose-built soundproof booth.
Remote Simultaneous Interpreting or RSI is not a new thing, but in 2020 it has, of course, become extremely common. All the events or meetings that have now shifted into a virtual space as a result of COVID-19 still need the input of a professional interpreter so that the participants can communicate fluidly. So, interpreters are now increasingly providing remote services from their home or office.
How does RSI work?
Remote Simultaneous Interpreting works in much the same way as presential Simultaneous Interpreting does. The interpreter sees a live-streamed video of the speaker giving a presentation or speech on their own computer, in the comfort of their own office. This requires special software in the shape of a cloud-based RSI platform.
Speaking into a microphone, they translate the speech as it’s in progress. Those who don’t speak the language in question can access this audio. As this is such a demanding task, interpreters work in teams and cover blocks of 15-25 minutes to make sure the quality of the interpretation is consistently high, just as they would if interpreting in person.
Pros of Remote Simultaneous Interpreting
There are both positives and negatives to RSI. Let’s start with how you could benefit from it.
• It’s flexible: Remote interpreting is easier to arrange at short notice, so you can make sure you cover the requirements of all the attendees at your event or meeting even if there are last-minute changes. During COVID-19, we’ve all learned how important it is to be ready for any eventuality.
• It doesn’t require travel: Even if some people are able to travel to attend your event or conference, the fact that your interpreter doesn’t have to travel to be there means there are fewer potential issues involving COVID-19, such as last-minute symptoms or cancelled flights. Whilst other costs are involved, you won’t have to pay for your interpreter’s travel or accommodation. Holding your event remotely can also drastically reduce its carbon footprint.
• There are more interpreters available: As they can work from home from anywhere in the world, you can choose the best-qualified interpreter rather than the most convenient one.
• You can reach more people: Holding an event remotely means far more people might be able to attend it. RSI means your event can cross borders it never would have without remote multi-lingual support.
Cons of Remote Simultaneous Interpretation
Of course, there are always two sides to every story. These are some of the downsides of RSI.
• There are associated risks: Technology is a wonderful thing, but it is fallible. There could be issues with internet connections, hardware or the platform that prevent the interpreter from doing their job. There are also risks associated with audio quality and data security.
• The interpreter has more responsibility: Rather than just doing what they do best, interpreting, the linguist is also responsible for managing their hardware and the platform, which can lead to problems.
The Future of RSI
Whilst we can be sure that Simultaneous Interpreting will return to a large degree once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, there’s no doubt that many people will continue to both use and provide RSI services.
Having learned that in-person interpreting isn’t always necessary, people will think more carefully about whether RSI would be more appropriate for their event thanks to its flexibility, savings, convenience and reduced carbon footprint.