A Primer on Interpretation Over-The-Phone

A Primer on Interpretation Over-The-Phone

Everything is going global. Interaction among governments, trade organizations, educational institutions, and even multi-national businesses, increasingly occur in the international sphere, where language barriers can be a problem. Interpretation solves this problem.

Interpreters are skilled professionals who allow people speaking different languages to interact. Interpreters have been around for decades and are growing in importance as more organizations operate internationally.

The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) defines two principle forms of interpretation: consecutive and simultaneous.

Simultaneous Interpretation (SI)

A Simultaneous Interpreter (SI) listens to the presenter and immediately restates what was said in another language. This process happens continuously without the presenter pausing. It requires the interpreter to listen to one language, even while speaking in another. This is a task requiring some serious language skills.

Simultaneous interpretation is also called “Conference Interpretation” because SI usually occurs at large, international conferences. The multilingual nature of such gatherings demand interpretation, which is facilitated by specialty audio systems allowing the various parties to hear desired audio streams while being isolated from others.

Consecutive Interpretation (CI)

Consecutive interpretation (CI) is very different. A consecutive interpreter will begin by listening to the presenter. As the presenter reaches the end of their thought, they pause. The interpreter then delivers the prior statement to the audience. When the Interpreter finishes, the presenter resumes where they left off, and the interpreter returns to listening once again. This simple cycle repeats for as long as necessary.

Consecutive interpretation does not require any special audio systems. The only requirement is an interpreter, making it relatively easy.

Practical Differences

The process of CI doubles the length of time required to give a presentation or have a conversation. Since the presenter and the interpreter alternate speaking every statement, a 30-minute presentation expands to an hour.

In contrast, SI doesn’t dramatically impact the duration of the event. A 30-minute presentation delivered using SI still takes around 30 minutes. This makes SI the preferred approach from a productivity perspective.

While both approaches allow the presenter to take questions from the audience, SI provides a more natural pace to the presentation. SI allows the parties to converse back and forth dynamically, and even interrupt each other.

Furthermore, consecutive interpretation doesn’t scale beyond two languages. Simply, it’s impractical to keep an audience waiting while each statement is repeated multiple times, in different languages.

Using SI, interpreters for additional languages act in parallel, interpreting the presentation to their particular portion of the audience. Audience members merely select their desired language channel on their listening device, allowing them to hear in their preferred language, in real-time.

Interpretation Over-The-Phone

Dual-Handset-Telephone-for-InterpretationHistorically, over-the-phone interpretation (OPI) could only be done using consecutive mode. Even when special telephones were used, the legacy telephone network just didn’t provide resources necessary to deliver SI over-the-phone.

This was the reality of OPI for many years. In fact, many professional interpreters have never experienced SI over-the-phone. Many language service companies don’t even know it’s possible. Consequentially, most organizations making use of interpreters don’t realize there’s a better way to hold interpreted conferences.

ZipDX Multilingual

ZipDX multilingual conference calling was developed in consultation with the ITU, the United Nations agency responsible for coordinating telecommunication operations and services throughout the world. At their regular conferences in Geneva or New York, they have dedicated facilities supporting SI. They sought a way achieve the same kind of productivity between conferences, when their teams were back in their home countries.

With a long history of innovation in telecom, David Frankel saw this as an opportunity to leverage the flexibility of the ZipDX conferencing platform. After a lengthy period of research, consultation and testing, ZipDX multilingual was created. Using this new service, the ITU is able to conduct virtual conferences by telephone, in six languages. This vastly expands the scope of what they can accomplish between physical conferences.

After helping solve the problems faced by the ITU, Frankel teamed with Professor Barry Slaughter Olsen to adapt the service for use by others. The ZipDX multilingual conferencing capability launched more broadly in 2012, and has been growing steadily ever since.

Posted in: Multilingual

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