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August 30, 2021 | Uncategorized

How the Pandemic Has Affected Remote Interpreting

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives in many ways. Almost every profession and industry has been disrupted by canceled events, the closure of non-essential businesses and schools, and mandated stay-at-home orders. If the trend toward working from home had already started before the pandemic, it has greatly accelerated since the start of 2020 with remote interpreting seeing a huge rise in demand.

The Need for Remote Interpreting

Even with people forced to remain at home, language assistance has remained necessary. This is as true throughout the professional arena where many events moved online as it is for people with limited language proficiency needing medical care. COVID-19 has proven to be particularly dangerous to certain categories of people including those aged 70 and over and those with underlying health conditions. 

Many people with limited English proficiency fit into these vulnerable groups. Their risk is exacerbated by the fact that people with limited English proficiency may not be able to protect themselves as well against the virus as they don’t have the literary skills to understand pandemic-related information.

In the United States, for example, studies revealed that the number of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 was far higher among communities with limited English and disproportionate to the general population. With the help of remote interpreting, these figures could have been greatly reduced.

In Australia, at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, there has been a notable rise in video interpreting appointments for people with limited English proficiency. In fact, the number has increased from 10-15 appointments per month pre-pandemic to between 100-200 a month currently.

The need for remote interpreting doesn’t stop at medical interpreting. As we saw from the recent Tokyo Olympics, most of the participants had to rely on remote interpreters to communicate on their behalf during their stay in Japan. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, all interpreting that would normally take place in person was remote.

The official team of linguists in Tokyo included almost 100 interpreters who had to translate to and from Japanese into various different languages, many of whom had never visited Japan and were working from their homes in other corners of the world. 

The Impact on the Events Industry

The pandemic had (and continues to have) a devastating impact on the events industry as major gatherings, shows, and conferences were put on ice. According to Allied Market Research, in 2019, pre-COVID, the global events industry was valued at around $1.1tn and expected to climb to a value of $1.6tn by 2028. That all changed as live events were canceled one after another and, by March 2020, the events industry had already lost an estimated $16.5bn.

90% of event professionals stated that their business had completely disappeared and, by November 2020, 52% reported a loss of income due to the pandemic. This loss of income and business has also been felt in the translation industry where many events, such as the 11th ABRATES International conference in Brazil, have been moved online.

Yet, while this disruption caused a severe shock at first, many businesses are now adapting to a virtual reality. Hosting meetings and events online with remote interpreting has allowed businesses to connect with an international audience. It may not be the same as face-to-face networking, but online events have enabled the participation of many more guests as they can do so from the comfort of their homes and, in many cases, without paying a high entry fee.

Remote Interpreting Is Here to Stay

Remote interpreting is, without a doubt, here to stay. While there are some disadvantages to this form of interpretation when compared to face-to-face, technology like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts have proven that it is possible to deliver a similar service much faster, cheaper, and (in these uncertain times) more safely. 

It’s true that there is a higher possibility of misinterpretation when the linguist is unable to see certain gestures or has a lack of cultural understanding of their subject and their surroundings. However, with more and more businesses moving online, these technologies will only improve. Moreover, working remotely in this way provides greater opportunities as businesses are able to hire internationally from a wider talent pool and work is more accessible. 

At Clear Words Translations, we have understood this change in the workplace and adapted our offering quickly, using the pandemic as an opportunity to explore continuing learning, provide more remote services, such as interpreting, and rise to the challenges that new technologies and social shifts provide. 

We launched our new Talentum360 platform to provide free courses for translators, interpreters, and other language industry professionals to enhance their skills and expand into new areas. Our fully trained language service professionals can provide remote interpreting for all your needs, from medical and legal to online business events. Simply reach out to us and let us know your needs, we’re ready and waiting to hear from you.