Telephone interpreting is a form of remote interpreting that some might refer to as “remote” or “agile” in the current climate.
It is a type of service that can solve many of the logistical problems that come with working as an interpreter. With telephone interpreting, you need less time to find an interpreter with the appropriate professional knowledge and can eliminate travel expenses and logistical difficulties that come with transporting the interpreter to the workplace.
How does telephone interpreting work?
Just like traditional interpreting, telephone interpreters listen to spoken word before proceeding to translate it for a listener or a certain number of participants who speak other languages.
There are various types of interpreting and they range from simultaneous translation, which takes place while the speaker is talking, to consecutive translation, which takes place in successive “blocks”, in which the speaker and the interpreter alternate and do not overlap. In the business sector, interpreters are often used in trade negotiations, so that the different parties may negotiate and reach an agreement.
The aforementioned types of interpreting, as well as several others, can be performed over the phone. In this case, the interpreter hears the speaker’s voice through his or her headphones or handset before producing a translation by speaking into a microphone, which sends the audio directly to the recipients’ headphones. This means that the interpreter, speaker, and recipient(s) can all be in different places.
Given the challenging situation created by the pandemic, telephone interpreting has become a fundamental service for companies and individuals seeking to maintain international relations, as it avoids personal contact and eliminates the risk of contagion between speakers, the public, and the interpreter.
The difficulties that come with telephone interpreting
Interpreters can only base their translation on audio and cannot rely on the facial expressions and gestures that accompany speech.
These strictly non-verbal cues cannot be used during telephone interpreting sessions, and as such, the interpreter’s understanding of spoken language must be spot on.
Other difficulties that come with interpreting involve the speaker’s use of a very formal register or very technical language. As is the case for traditional interpreting, you need to make sure you work with a telephone interpreter who possesses all the skills required to do the job properly.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that simultaneous telephone interpreting is mainly used for short telephone calls, which usually take place between four people: two speakers and two interpreters. The purpose of this kind of translation is usually to establish contact, to make a booking, or other similar activities.