Remote Interpreting: the future?


Remote working does not replace face to face interpreting!

Is remote interpreting right for our profession? Sometimes!

Is remote interpreting right for you? Maybe!

Is working remotely right for every assignment? No!

What is right though, is to make sure remote interpreting works in those places where it is appropriate. This requires our profession to have an informed opinion.

Nuffield Health launch whitepaper reviewing the impact of remote working on employees and employers with analyses of existing research, providing insights and recommendations

Overall remote working was found to be positive on wellbeing. Where negative effects were found, it was largely the result of individual traits or factors that can be addressed organisationally, such as ensuring appropriate technology to enable seamless access to work

What remote interpreting allows

The advantages of remote interpreting could be categorised by: its ability to break down geographical barriers and its inherent flexibility.

Geographical barriers and flexibility have needed to be addressed by our profession for a while and we can no longer ignore their importance. That being said, remote does have significant drawbacks, which are all too often ignored by companies looking to turn a profit.

Life and death

Already, remote interpreting allows for quicker access to healthcare and legal interpreting. It is making interpreting available to front line emergency workers before an interpreter can get there in person, saving precious time and lives.

Remote working overcomes the short-term restrictions on interpreters movements and this model of working allows interpreting to be provided where professional interpreters would otherwise be in short supply.

What remote interpreting doesn’t allow

Excellent interpreting involves the interpreter working with the other participants to make meaning.

All interpreting assignments require exceptional linguistic and social dexterity by the interpreter. This includes adding explanations, omitting irrelevant information, asking for clarification, adjusting metaphors and pronoun use.

Our work also involves talking to speakers and audience members between sessions, it’s important to understand the needs of individual meetings. Reformulating content and even, in some cases, acting as gatekeepers so they can actually interpret what is being said.

Individual and collective action

The very flexibility that makes remote interpreting a good opportunity also creates obstacles which require addressing.

Currently, the lack of standardisation of remote working and the way it has sometimes been sold means that there is a real risk that interpreters could end up working in ways that are not conducive to their long-term well-being.

Self awareness and monitoring of our professional well being will become increasingly important; poor ergonomics, lack of acoustic shock protection, poorly-suited screens, unsociable hours and working without human company for long periods are all real dangers in remote.

What has your experience been during this enforced remote interpreting era, comment here. Have your say.

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