Remote Interpreting Platforms: Friends or Foes for Conference Interpreters?
This article is a collaboration with Day Translations, providers of remote interpreting and translation services. In the past few years, alongside many other jobs, conference interpreting went remote. While conference interpretation still requires in-person meetings to be performed 100% successfully, there are several instances where remote interpretation is suitable and will provide satisfactory results.
Remote Interpreting for International Organisations
A number of players emerged within a short timeframe (less than ten years) to offer remote interpreting services for conferences and events. Software solutions were designed to meet the need to overcome language barriers when physical events were not feasible. Clients such as European Union and the UN started using streaming conference interpreting after global lockdowns were imposed. International organisations rely on interpretation services on a daily basis to carry out essential business. While English is the main working language, interpretation is still vital to ensure each message is understood fully and to negotiate important issues effectively.
A number of simultaneous interpreting platforms have come to the fore as more people have embraced remote working, mainly as a result of lockdowns in 2019-2020-2021.
KUDO, VoiceBoxer and Interprefy are three key players in the remote conference interpreting platform market.
KUDO is a remote simultaneous interpreting software platform that connects language professionals in different countries covering more than 200 languages. To quote from their website, the company has “A vision to transform how people communicate” and “A vision for a borderless world”.
Founder Fardad Zabetian was involved in the refurbishment of the UN’s meeting rooms so he got some valuable inside knowledge of the inner workings of the organisation. The KUDO team is experienced in liaising with the UN, NATO and the Council of Europe.
The platform works by allowing people to join meetings via videoconference in their own language.
The software is used for county council meetings, teachers conferences and international events.
The company prides itself for proactively removing language barriers and improving accessibility, which can be an issue for in-person events. Also, having an online conference allows all delegates to attend at once instead of having to organise roadshows in several locations.
VoiceBoxer is a multilingual conferencing software to stream real-time language interpretation. VoiceBoxer can be used as a standalone solution or alongside voice conferencing tools without requiring a local download. It integrates with Zoom, Teams and other video meeting tools.
Clients include the Council of Europe.
The company invested heavily in HD streaming technology to ensure clients get good image and sound quality. Based in Denmark, the company has partnered with Boostlingo from Texas, U.S., providers of on-demand remote interpretation via phone and video.
VoiceBoxer was founded in 2014 by linguist Sergio Lloran and Andrea Baccenetti, who spotted early on that events and conferences had started moving online and that organisations needed to broadcast their conferences in multiple languages simultaneously. To quote from their website, their mission is “to empower organizations’ capabilities to strengthen international collaboration and global engagement”. They are committed to deliver a multilingual communication platform that enables a wider reach for the languages services industry.
Interprefy offers a streaming platform for professional language interpretation and automatic live captioning on video. The company has high profile clients such as Google, Facebook and The White House in Washington. To quote from their website, “Only 17% of the world speaks English either natively, or as a second language”.
While other simultaneous interpretation providers focus on targeting large organisations, Interprefy’s mission statement is to make interpretation more accessible, particularly to small and medium companies as well as NGOs, breaking down language barriers. Their website mentions that their cloud-based solution from remote professional conference interpreters is suitable for any scale event, from Zoom meetings to Metaverse gatherings and even connecting astronauts from the International Space Station (ISS). They also delivered remote interpreting for the international press at the UEFA Euro 2020.
Interprefy was started in Zurich, Switzerland by founder Kim Ludvigsen, removing the need to hire an interpretation booth and fly a professional interpreter to the chosen venue.
While all these companies and their solutions look very interesting and are meeting a need in the market for remote interpretation, professional interpreters may still encounter some challenges when doing their job mostly because of connection issues (which, of course, is beyond the teleconferencing providers’ control). So, in an idea world, broadband connections need to be improved and strengthened to ensure the line is clear and uninterrupted during a conversation that requires instant translating.