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Looking back over the past two years since the pandemic seized the globe, it’s remarkable to see how quickly everything changed. Innovation has always been a driving force in business and industry worldwide; however, the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated the luxury of time as businesses scrambled to move services online and adopt touchless transactions. Stay-at-home mandates and forced isolation required companies to adapt with lightning speed – because even a global pandemic can’t stop “business as usual” completely.
Looking at the translation and interpretation industry in the rear view mirror is a mixed bag of outcomes, but the overall results have been favorable for the industry and the organizations it serves. In this article, we’re looking at the world of business interpreting, how the pandemic shifted the industry and its operations, and why we think everyone is better off with the changes the pandemic catalyzed.
Before COVID drastically upended lives in early 2020, most language service providers (LSP) operated within traditional methods involving more in-person services than remote. For professional interpreters, pre-pandemic life often included frequent travel, on-site conference interpreting, or days packed with back-to-back appointments that regularly utilized on-site interpreter services.
However, canceled in-person meetings and events and critical shifts to remote-only work affected all industries – and the scramble to find alternative safer methods for conducting business began, language service providers notwithstanding. For example, a business interpreter who mainly served in-person at conferences may have transitioned to different service areas, like court interpretation, as live events shuttered. Overall, many organizations shifted to video-remote-interpreting (VRI) or over-the-phone-interpreting (OPI) as safer ways to offer services to their customers.
Naturally, technology took a front seat in the reorganization of many business processes. For example, video conferencing technology wasn’t new in 2020; however, it wasn’t as widespread and nowhere near as common nor as refined as it is today. Let’s look at how technology influenced language interpreters’ sphere and how business interpreters quickly adapted to remote interpreting practices.
Although remote interpreter technology wasn’t new to the LSP industry in 2020, it was considered an option and not a necessity. Two years later, technology is essential to growth in the business interpreter industry. Any company or institution seeking success in the modern business world must be able to speak their customers’ language, not only through simple interpreting but also in terms of cultural acceptance. As business practices were forced to move from in-person to online, the Language Service Providers (LSPs) that had been slow to adopt technology that facilitated remote interpreting within their processes faced a reckoning – adapt or move to the back of the line.
The shift within the industry was swift and supported by the industry’s governing bodies, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which regulates the translation, interpreting, localization, and other services with ISO 9001:2015 quality standards. Although many LSPs quickly adjusted and adopted remote interpreting service practices to meet the growing demand escalated by COVID-19, the adoption of entirely new technologies within less-than-ideal work environments (like your new home office – the kitchen table) was difficult for many.
The global language services market has seen rapid growth, with the world becoming increasingly interconnected. Over the last decade, the market has doubled in size, reaching 49.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, many in or related to language services speculated a downturn; however, the industry overall was able to adapt quickly by pivoting to remote-based services.
For example, the loss of in-person work for business interpreters who worked the conference and summit circuit was countered by the rise in demand for remote interpreting in other fields, such as healthcare, life sciences, and legal. According to a CSA survey2 conducted in late 2020, 64% of LSPs reported an increase in demand for interpretation in the health sector, with 59% reporting a higher demand from the life sciences, medical, and pharmaceuticals sectors.
Ultimately, the LSPs that embraced technology came out on top. The adaption of online interpreting platforms and translation and localization technology allowed them to enter a new era of remote interpreting services and video remote interpreting services that provided top-notch, streamlined service without physical boundaries. The integration of technology benefited both sides of the industry by granting limitless access to services more efficiently and cost-effectively.
Remote interpreting allows businesses to operate globally beyond language barriers by using a combination of off-site interpreters and technology to facilitate communication between multiple people that do not speak the same language. Thanks to advances in video remote interpreting (VRI) and over-the-phone interpretation (OPI) technology, individuals and businesses can connect without location limitations.
Remote interpreting services are not new, but there have been significant advances and improvements in the technology used to deliver remote interpreting services over the phone or on-screen. The most notable perhaps has been the rise of video remote interpreting since the onset of the pandemic in 2020 that integrates with commonly used platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
In most cases, Video Remote Interpreting requires special video conferencing software, equipment, and it always requires a high-speed Internet connection with sufficient bandwidth to provide sign language or spoken language interpreting services via an on-screen video. In other words, it delivers the comfort and accuracy of face-to-face language interpretation with a personalized video remote interpreter with a simple click of a button.
There are countless benefits to utilizing a remote interpreter to facilitate communication in remote locations. For companies with offices or clients around the globe, remote interpreting for meetings, for example, allows seamless day-to-day communication no matter the language or location. Additionally, as we have seen since the pandemic, a remote interpreting service that provides real-time communications for healthcare providers that need to communicate critical information in another language can save valuable time – and even save lives.
Besides the convenience remote interpreting provides for all parties involved, it can also be more cost-effective than in-person interpreting services. Remote interpretation services, such as Over the Phone Interpreting (OPI), eliminate the cost and inconvenience of travel and the hassle of obtaining special equipment, such as headphones or soundproofing equipment that in-person gatherings like conventions or summits require.
Video remote interpreting has all the benefits of remote interpreting mentioned above, with the added benefit of maintaining the personalization of an in-person experience and visual connection. Therefore, any visual element that aids in communication, such as sign language, is not lost. Additionally, on-demand video interpreting connects you to an interpreter very quickly, so missed or canceled appointments are “virtually” eliminated. Overall, it’s more convenient, cost-effective, personal, and highly accessible with just a device and internet connection.
The rapid growth and acceptance of remote interpreting services post-pandemic have been highly beneficial for everyone involved in the language interpreting world. From business operations to medical access, people the world over can communicate beyond language barriers instantly and securely.
Dynamic Language has been at the forefront of the language services industry for over 30 years, adapting and growing to meet the needs of every client consistently – and our pursuit of innovation will never cease. As a company, we recognize the vital role that technology can play to increase efficiency, reduce errors, lower costs, and improve time to market.
Although we pride ourselves on being a globally recognized video remote interpreting and phone interpreting company providing expert services in all aspects of translation, localization, and interpreting – both in-person and remotely – we will always be a people-driven company first. Ready to engage in remote interpreting services that are both expertly delivered and managed?
Contact Dynamic Language today to help you confidently do business in a multilingual world.
2 CSA Research