Telephone interpreting in public services

Published on 06/08/2021

Have you ever heard about telephone interpretation and its advantages? In this article I will tell you everything you need to know.

I will start with a definition:

Telephone interpretation is a type of remote interpretation service. It is increasingly present in the professional world of translation and interpretation. It is becoming more and more important in the sector of public services, thanks to the many advantages it offers.

1. What are the advantages of telephone interpretation?

Advantages of telephone interpreting

The ongoing debate about whether technology will eventually replace professional translators or not, is probably never going to end. However, it is undeniable that technological advances have improved the work flow of professional translators.

1.1. Say goodbye to long journeys

One of the best things about telephone interpretation is, that it’s a type of remote and liaison interpreting. This makes it much easier to hire a quality interpreter compared to on-site interpretation. Especially if a rare language combination is involved.

This is one of the main reasons why NGOs use this remote interpreting service to facilitate communication with refugees. If you need an interpreter for e. g. Yoruba - one of the official languages of Nigeria-, it will always be a lot easier to manage the meeting electronically.

This type of interpreting could also be very useful for health services. Through remote simultaneous interpreting platforms (RSI) they would be able to contact many interpreters for a great variety of languages .

It is also worth mentioning that reducing travel for interpreters will help to reduce the profession's carbon footprint. This is extremely important, especially in today's world.

1.2. Time travel?

Another advantage of telephone interpretation is its immediacy. As I mentioned earlier, it is sometimes difficult to find an interpreter, especially if the language combination is unusual.

However, another reason that might make it harder to find a qualified interpreter is urgency. That's why this type of interpretation is extremely useful in public services, like hospitals, police stations, and courts.

Without the need to travel, the interpreter can be available immediately.

2. What are the disadvantages?

Disadvantages telephone interpreting

As with everything in life, all that glitters is not gold. While the advantages are undeniable, telephone interpretation also presents some negative aspects.

2.1. Eyes, which can’t see...

While the quality of service does not necessarily vary, it is true that the circumstances and environment influence the interpreter's work.

One of the biggest disadvantages of telephone interpreting is the loss of the communicative context. Since the person interpreting is unable to see his interlocutors, a lot of contextual information is lost.

We should never undermine the importance of gestures, postures and facial expressions. They provide interpreters with essential information about the discourse, which sometimes simplifies the interpretation process.

This means the interpreter must focus exclusively on the discourse of the interlocutors. They should also be able to extract complementary information from the tone of voice and attitude.

2.2. Not applicable to all areas

This paragraph is about a limitation rather than a disadvantage of telephone interpreting. It is obvious that off-site interpreting makes it impossible to use in certain areas.

On some occasions a face-to-face interpretation is required, for example:

  • court testimonies
  • meetings with a lawyer
  • signing of contracts
  • meetings an in social service centres
  • Any other meeting with public entities

3. Will the telephone interpretation prevail?

Telephone interpreting

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, telephone interpreting services are becoming increasingly common. For example in insurance companies, public institutions and all types of private companies.

Telephone interpretation, allows certain companies, to immediately offer their customers services in many languages without the need to hire bilingual staff.

Nowadays there are translation agencies that offer this type of language service and professional interpreters.

However,this type of interpretation is not applicable to the most famous type of interpreting: conference interpretation. But don’t worry. There is a solution for everything.

In this article you will find everything you need to know about the interpretation feature (oral translation) in Zoom. A platform, which is revolutionising the world of remote conference interpreting.

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Josh Gambin's picture
Josh Gambin

Josh Gambin holds a 5-year degree in Biology from the University of Valencia (Spain) and a 4-year degree in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Granada (Spain). He has worked as a freelance translator, in-house translator, desktop publisher and project manager. From 2002, he is a founding member of AbroadLlink and currently works as Marketing and Sales Manager.

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