Banner reading June Interpreter Spotlight, Jordan Aviles, Mexico. Owner of Desert Comms and Spanish Medical Interpreter

As technological innovations emerge at a rapid pace, we’re living in an increasingly interconnected world. Breakthroughs in transportation and telecommunications have allowed us to engage with people from different corners of the world and this newfound interconnectedness has revolutionized global interactions. But as the world gets smaller, language barriers bring an additional layer of challenges to cross-cultural engagements. 

The feeling of being heard and understood is vital to the human experience. Think of doctors who are tending to refugees from another country or diplomats who are negotiating the end of a brutal war. In these pivotal moments, seamless communication is vital and interpreters serve a key role by allowing the harmonious exchange of thoughts, emotions, and ideas. 

Today, global migration patterns, fluctuating needs from refugee crises, and the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a greater and lasting demand for interpretation services. Additionally, the widespread adoption of remote interpreting modalities has transformed language services forever.

At its core, it’s important to remember that interpretation is not merely a transaction of words. It’s an art that helps individuals navigate emotions, understand cultural nuances, and build connections. In this guide, we’ll cover the fundamental aspects behind interpretation services and what they offer.

What Does Interpretation Mean? What Does It Mean to be an Interpreter?

Interpretation is the process of converting spoken or signed communication from one language to another. Interpreters are language professionals who specialize in this task and enable individuals with different primary languages to talk to one another. Apart from being proficient in multiple languages, interpreters are trained to accurately convey emotions and words, have strong interpersonal skills, and are adept at responding to the communication needs of everyone needing interpretation.

Interpreters play a key role in multilingual settings. For example, hospitals in the United States located in areas that have a large Spanish-speaking population may receive a lot of patients that speak Spanish as their primary language. Given that language barriers can deter treatment, Spanish interpreters can solve this issue by ensuring the accurate exchange of important medical information such as the patient’s medical history, treatment options, and more. As a result, the support of the interpreter not only improves the patient’s experience but optimizes treatment quality as a whole.

Interpreter vs. Translator: What’s the Difference?

Many people think that interpreters and translators are the same, but this is not the case. Translators specialize in analyzing and converting written text such as business contracts, legal documents, and medical reports from one language to another. On the other hand, interpreters focus on spoken or signed languages that are communicated in real time. Interpreters help participants who speak different languages to express themselves fully and naturally. 

Both occupations have the same end goal of overcoming linguistic barriers but they’re distinct professions with different training, certifications, and specializations. Qualified translators aren’t necessarily fit to interpret real time discussions and vice versa, without training in both fields. Interpreters have varying fields of specialization given that certain settings (government, educational, etc.) have complex processes and terminologies that are difficult to communicate without proper training. A medical interpreter may be qualified to facilitate communication during medical emergencies but may not necessarily be fit to do the same in legal proceedings if they don’t have appropriate training as a legal interpreter.

What are the Types of Interpretation Services?

Interpretation services can be broadly classified into two main types: Spoken Language Interpreting and Sign Language Interpreting. Let’s have a quick rundown of each. 

  • Spoken Language Interpreting

Spoken language interpretation is the process of converting spoken language from one language to another. Think of an interpreter facilitating a discussion between an English speaker and a Chinese speaker. The interpreter listens to what the Chinese speaker has to say and then relays the message into English. 

  • Sign Language Interpreting

Sign language interpretation focuses on facilitating communication between individuals who use sign languages like American Sign Language (ASL) as a primary means of communication. Sign language interpreters may convert messages between two different sign languages or convert spoken language into sign language and vice-versa.

Modes of Interpreting

Interpretation does not have a one-size-fits-all approach. Language professionals know that each situation has its own set of requirements so interpreters may use different interpretation techniques within a given scenario. 

  • Consecutive Interpretation

This interpretation technique requires the interpreter to understand and reformulate a message in another language right after the speaker or signer pauses. Consecutive interpretation is used in many settings such as medical appointments, business-related interactions, and most frequently when participants are engaged in a dialogue.

  • Simultaneous Interpretation

This mode of interpretation requires the interpreter to convert the message of the speaker while he or she is talking. It is commonly used for large-scale events and larger meetings with multilingual participants. For example, interpreters serving the United Nations use this technique during the organization’s general assemblies. 

  • Sight Translation

Sight translation refers to the oral or signed rendering of the meaning of a written text. This interpretation mode requires the interpreter to convert the content of a written text in one language into a spoken interpretation in another. For example, an interpreter tasked to sight translate a contract written in Russian will analyze the document and read aloud the content in English. This technique is required in legal settings and other situations where documents must be understood immediately.

How are Interpreting Services Delivered: The 5 Modalities of Interpreting 

As the world shifts towards the digital space, technological advancements allow interpreters to provide language services remotely. Below are the different ways interpretation services can be delivered:

  • On-Site Interpreting

On-site interpreting is a language service where a qualified interpreter is physically present at the location where language support is needed. For example, an interpreter is in the same location as a patient and doctor during a medical appointment and interprets their discussion.

  • Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) 

Video remote interpreting services are conducted over a video platform when the interpreter or at least one participant is in a remote location. The user initiates a video call with an interpreter as he or she starts an encounter with the other participant. 

  • Over the Phone Interpreting (OPI)

Over the phone interpreting is an audio-only interpretation service conducted over the phone (or on an internet-connected device such as a computer or tablet) when the interpreter or the participant is in another location.

  • Remote Simultaneous Interpreting

As the name suggests, remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) is a simultaneous interpreting service provided through technology that permits the interpreter and participants to be in separate remote locations. It is designed for virtual events (i.e. webinars, online meetings, etc.). RSI  is performed by interpreters working in diplomatic and conference settings, as well as for business, local government justice systems, and education. With the help of a virtual event platform like BoostEvents, interpreters can relay the message of the speaker into multiple languages in real time. 

  • Hybrid Interpreting

Hybrid interpreting is a combination of remote interpreting and on-site interpreting technology. It’s primarily designed for hybrid events that have participants and speakers who may be present both at the venue or through a video conferencing platform. On-site participants may listen to the interpreter directly while virtual participants can listen in via their chosen platform. All in all, this type of interpretation enables all attendees and speakers to take part in the event. 

Interpreting Specializations

Each setting has its own set of complexities and challenges. Interpreters can specialize and acquire the necessary training to properly facilitate communication and navigate within a given field. Here are the common specializations for interpreters:

  • Community Interpreting

Community interpreters enable people to access services available to society as a whole. It’s a specialization of interpreting that facilitates access to community services for individuals who do not speak the language of service. By assisting ethnic minorities and individuals who have limited proficiency in a country’s primary language in everyday scenarios, they enable them to integrate well with their communities.

  • Educational Interpreting

Educational interpreters facilitate access to primary, secondary, and higher education to facilitate communication between educational providers and students (and their families and guardians) who do not speak the same language. Moreover, educational interpreting is considered to be a sub-specialization of community interpreting.  

  • Healthcare/Medical Interpreting

Healthcare interpreters facilitate health-related communication between patients, accompanying persons, treatment providers, or administrators who do not use the same language. Given that miscommunications may compromise the safety and well-being of patients, their main job is to ensure that limited English proficient patients (and their loved ones) can exchange medical information accurately. Medical interpreting is the most professionalized sub-specialization of community interpreting.

  • Business Interpreting

Business interpreters serve commercial institutions and their customers or between multiple institutions. They are key players in the corporate world since they enable multinational companies to conduct meetings, participate in negotiations, and understand reports seamlessly. 

  • Legal Interpreting

Legal interpreters specialize in judicial settings. Legal interpreting covers legal processes and proceedings inside and outside of the courtroom. Legal interpreting includes but is not limited to court hearings and trials, lawyer-client representation, prosecutor-victim/witness interviews, and law enforcement communication. Overall, their role is to facilitate communication in legal interactions to provide equal access to the justice system. 

  • Conference Interpreting

Conference interpreters are trained to facilitate multilingual communication for international diplomacy, governments, and business. They also work in high-level international non-profit and media settings. They are highly proficient in simultaneous interpretation and allow attendees to understand what the speaker is saying in real time. 

  • Diplomatic Interpreting

Diplomatic interpreters interpret for officials in diplomatic settings which can include national institutions, international institutions such as the United Nations (UN), UN system agencies, the European Union, and international or inter-regional associations or bodies. Diplomatic interpreting is considered a sub-specialization of conference interpreting. It involves interpreting for interactions with representatives or officials of foreign governments both privately and at large international meetings.

Examples and Use Cases of Interpretation Services

  • Healthcare

Healthcare interpreters help doctors, staff, administrators, and limited English proficient patients (and family members) understand one another. Proper communication enables the accurate exchange of medical information and this leads to proper diagnosis and treatment. Interpreters play a vital role in life-or-death situations and the overall health needs of immigrant communications. If a non-English speaking patient were to get rushed to a hospital, failure to understand his condition may lead to errors in treatment. In this scenario, having an interpreter’s support whether in-house or remote is essential in obtaining accurate medical information and ensuring proper treatment. 

  • Legal and Judicial

In legal settings, interpretation services play a key role any time an immigrant interacts with the justice system. From traffic and family court to immigration and asylum cases, interpreters assist non-English speaking or limited English proficient individuals as they navigate through legal processes such as immigration interviews, court proceedings, and depositions. Accurate interpretation ensures that individuals understand their rights, tell their side of the story accurately, and communicate properly with the relevant authorities. 

  • Educational

Interpreters in schools, universities, and other educational institutions help non-English speaking families, guardians and students access information, essential services, and other educational resources. Sign language interpreters assist Deaf and Hard of hearing students in understanding lectures, communicating with their peers, and participating in school activities. Spoken language interpreters enable parents, guardians, and school officials to communicate so they can ensure that children receive full access to education.

  • Diplomacy and Government

Interpretation services are critical for diplomatic and government settings. From a diplomatic standpoint, interpreters bridge language gaps during conferences, negotiations, and other relevant interactions to build international relations. For local governments, interpreters help non-English and limited English proficient citizens access social services, attend hearings, and more. 

  • Non-Profit 

Many non-profit organizations provide critical services that benefit minorities and diverse communities. As volunteers engage in charity work, differences in language may prevent them from fulfilling their mission. Interpreters allow both parties to understand each other, leading to improved outcomes for all community members. 

  • Financial

For the financial services sector, interpretation is key for multinational organizations. Financial interpreters ensure that their clients can understand important information such as an investment’s returns, financial documents, and other transactions that may affect the outcome of a negotiation. Apart from the removal of language barriers, interpreters play a vital role in fostering trust between parties. 

  • Events

Large-scale events draw participants from all corners of the globe. Let’s take the Olympics as an example. The event brings together athletes, officials, and spectators from different countries so participants and attendees speak a multitude of languages. In these types of events, interpreters pave the way for effective communication between athletes and coaches, during press conferences and competitions to ensure that everyone can participate in the event regardless of their linguistic background. 

The Benefits of Remote Interpreting and How It Complements On-Site Interpreting

Remote interpreting is undergoing mainstream adoption due to its value. More people are starting to realize the benefits of the service and its demand has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At the height of the health crisis, remote interpreting accounted for 95% of interpretation encounters. This should not be a surprise considering the lockdowns that occurred during this period. Today, remote interpreting takes up half (49%) of interpreting interactions. This is a huge jump considering that remote interpreting was only 20% of encounters before the pandemic. 

While remote interactions can’t fully replicate the value of face-to-face engagements, remote interpreting can help address the increasing demand for language services. In addition to supporting on-site interpreting, remote interpreting offers a wide array of benefits. 

  • Cost-effective compared to onsite interpreting 

On-site interpretation provides a lot of value but it’s hard to ignore the fact that it can be expensive. Remote interpreting is a more cost-effective solution since it eliminates expenses (i.e. transportation and accommodation) that can drive up the total cost of language services. 

  • On-demand service 24/7

Remote interpreting offers the convenience of on-demand service. This means that users can acquire the help of an interpreter at any place and time. This is especially useful for spontaneous, time-sensitive, or emergency situations where an on-site interpreter is unavailable and for harder-to-find language combinations. 

  • Ease of access

Remote interpretation is accessible from virtually anywhere as long as the user has a stable internet or phone connection. This accessibility is especially valuable for rural communities since on-site language services are significantly limited in these areas. Remote interpreting ensures that language support is available in the languages needed to access key services. 

  • Fosters inclusivity 

Interpreting fosters inclusivity by breaking down cultural and linguistic barriers. No matter what setting it may be, interpretation allows people to express themselves, understand information, and partake in important discussions regardless of their language proficiency. Remote interpreting guarantees that language services are readily available and being able to communicate well promotes a sense of belonging. 

  • Seamless access to hard-to-source or occasionally needed languages

It can be challenging to find on-site interpreters for rare languages or languages that are only occasionally needed. Fortunately, remote interpreting solves this problem for most languages. Users of remote interpreting services can easily access a broad network of interpreters, making it possible to secure most languages on demand. In Boostlingo’s case, users of our solutions can access interpreters across 300 languages through the Boostlingo Professional Interpreter Network (BPIN).

  • Increases the number of encounters that can be interpreted

Remote interpreting supports organizations by allowing them to cover more meetings, appointments, and other important interactions that require an interpreter’s support. This scalability can be particularly valuable for institutions that have fluctuating interpretation demands or limited staff interpreters. Overall, having remote interpreters onboard can lead to improved organizational efficiency. 

  • Provides more privacy

In situations where a member of a small language community requires interpretation, remote interpretation services provide more privacy.  Remote interpreting can reduce the potential discomfort or conflicts of interest associated with when the interpreter and clients have personal relationships. This is especially useful for sensitive and personal discussions since it makes them more willing to share information. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Interpretation Services

  • Why is interpretation important? 

Interpretation is becoming more important since cross-cultural interactions are constantly on the rise. Interpreters serve a vital role in multilingual settings since they bridge the communication gap between people who speak different languages. Whether it’s a routine medical appointment, an important business negotiation, or an international conference, interpretation guarantees that everyone is heard and included.

  • Where is interpreting most in demand? Where is multilingual communication most common?

Interpreting services are highly in demand in settings that have multilingual participants and regions that have diverse populations. Government, healthcare, legal, and educational professionals constantly interact with people who have a different native tongue, and having an interpreter on board allows seamless communication. On the other hand, major cities, international business districts, and rural communities that have a large migrant population are cultural melting pots and the support of interpreters allows non-English speaking or limited English proficient individuals to integrate with society.

  • How do interpreters maintain confidentiality with their clients?

Interpreters are required to adhere to a strict code of ethics and any legal regulations in their country. Additionally, they’re also trained to prioritize discretion and privacy as they interact with clients. Both factors ensure that any sensitive information is kept confidential and will not be shared with a third party. 

In the medical setting, privacy laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States ensure that healthcare interpreters don’t disclose patient data without the patient’s consent. To foster trust with our clients, the HIPAA-compliant interpreters in our network are required to follow the Boostlingo Code of Conduct and the NCIHC national code of ethics for healthcare interpreters. 

  • Are there certifications or programs for interpreters?

Yes, there are interpreting certifications available. Organizations such as the American Translators Association offer training programs to help language professionals develop their expertise. But in the case of the United States, it’s important to note that there is limited certification of medical and court interpreters. Since interpreters provide services in hundreds of languages, formal certification is not always available to all language pairs. 

However, just because an interpreter can’t become fully certified does not mean they are unqualified professionals. In our case, Boostlingo’s specialized interpreters meet the same professional requirements that are required of certified interpreters.

  • What’s the difference between certified and non-certified interpreters?

A certified interpreter is an interpreter who has been assessed as competent in two or more languages by a professional interpreting organization or government entity through a reliable test that has been externally validated and that evaluates both knowledge about interpreting and interpreting skills. 

Certified interpreters have strong proficiency in the languages they speak and have a thorough understanding of processes and terminologies in their fields of specialization. Certified interpreters are mandated in some settings, and are generally preferred for specialized assignments since certification serves as proof of their expertise. 

For example, a certified legal interpreter is trained to understand and interpret complex terms and processes in the legal field. This allows their clients to understand important information as they testify in court, settle an immigration case, or consult with a legal professional. 

  • Will artificial intelligence (AI) ever replace interpreters?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is making great strides in the language industry. AI can be a valuable tool for certain tasks such as call allocation since innovations such as intelligent routing allow LSPs and end-users to connect clients with the appropriate interpreter. But even though AI-powered tools are undergoing mainstream adoption, they will not replace the value that interpreters provide anytime soon.

Interpreters are trained to navigate through sensitive and emotional situations that AI cannot currently handle. Interpreters take part in complex situations where human judgment, cultural sensitivity, and empathy are paramount. AI may provide value for routine tasks and low-risk interactions but lacks the nuanced understanding and contextual awareness that are innate in human interpreters. Ultimately, AI will complement human interpreters but will never fully replace them. 

  • Can someone be an interpreter and translator at the same time?

Yes, a language professional can be an interpreter and translator at the same time. Both occupations are closely related. However, it’s important to understand that they are separate professions that have distinct skill sets, training requirements, and certifications. Just because someone is qualified to translate text does not automatically mean that he or she is fit to interpret a discussion. In case a translator wants to become an interpreter, he or she will need to undergo training. 

Have any more questions in mind? We can provide answers! Make sure to contact us today to learn more!

Bridging Language Gaps In An Increasingly Interconnected World

As globalization takes place, multicultural interactions are becoming the norm. With the world getting smaller and smaller, interpreters will play a pivotal role in breaking down language barriers and bridging cultures. Whether it’s in a diplomatic setting or through everyday encounters, interpreters are heroes that foster progress and inclusivity. 

If you’re constantly interacting with multi-lingual clients and partners, acquiring interpretation services is a must for your organization. If you’re on the lookout for cutting-edge language solutions, partnering with Boostlingo will be your best choice yet. Book a demo with us today to learn more about our services!