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A Comprehensive Guide to Interpretation Services

a comprehensive guide to interpretation services

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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 may be qualified to perform document translation but aren’t necessarily fit to interpret real-time discussions if they have not received training. 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. The interpreter listens to the speaker to the speaker in the source language and then relays the message to the target language without delay. Consecutive interpreting is used in many settings such as medical appointments, business-related interactions, and most frequently when participants are engaged in a dialogue.

Simultaneous Interpretation

Simultaneous interpreting 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 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 Us

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