Remote Simultaneous Interpretation. The now global outbreak of Covid-19 has industries scrambling to adapt their business models around travel lockdowns and social distancing measures.
Industries relying on travel and face-to-face interactions are feeling this pressure acutely. As events and conferences are being cancelled and travel restrictions implemented globally, many industries have started moving online. Already, major sporting events and industry conferences have set up livestreams for their events, without live studio audiences.
With the shift to teleconferencing for meetings and livestreaming for events, the problem arises around how to translate through language barriers in an online space.
Traditionally, on-site translators allowed for seamless translations for attendees at the venue.
As conferences and events go online, the event management industry is starting to see remote simultaneous interpretation, or RSI, as an indispensable tool for putting on anything internationally oriented amidst the Covid-19 crisis.
A brief history of interpretation
Simultaneous interpretation was first officially introduced to the world during the Nuremburg trials (1945-1946). The tribunal was tasked with carrying out “fair and expeditious trials”, making it imperative that there was an efficient and precise translation system implemented.
With judges from Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the US presiding over the hearings of German Nazi war criminals, there were four different languages being used in courtroom. The standard at the time, consecutive interpretation where interpreters translate after hearing the speaker finish an entire phrase/speech, would have been too slow for the job.
IBM offered to implement a simultaneous interpretation system for the trials. The setup consisted of interpreters sitting in an isolated booth, wearing headphones to listen to the source speaker, and translating into their respective languages in real time into a microphone.
The translated audios were broadcast to headset receivers for participants in their respective languages. In this way, listeners were able to get a smooth experience and communicate clearly to each other without waiting for a translation.
You will encounter such on-site simultaneous interpretation setups, albeit with minor upgrades to the technology, at any larger international conference or event today.
However, as technology has progressed, the possibilities for more efficient simultaneous interpretation has too. The rise of faster internet and Wi-Fi meant livestreaming of both video and audio became possible as well as cloud computing. The universal adoption of personal smartphones and smart devices has the potential to make headsets redundant.
Enter remote simultaneous interpretation, RSI: by utilizing cloud computing power, livestreaming immediacy, and smartphone connectivity, in recent years we have been able to move simultaneous interpretation online, rendering the on-site aspect of interpretation unnecessary.
How does remote simultaneous interpretation work?
There may be many different setups and systems for RSI, but all follow the same logic:
- The speaker speaks in one language while their voice and image are livestreamed to remote interpreters.
- The interpreters hear and see the speaker on their own devices and translates the speaker’s words into their respective languages in real time, speaking into quality microphones.
- Each interpreter’s translated audio is transmitted to a central cloud-based RSI platform.
- Attendees connect to the RSI platform via their smartphones/Wi-Fi enabled devices, choose their language of choice, and see the speaker seamlessly speaking with translated audio.
Benefits of remote simultaneous interpretation
Even before the Covid-19 outbreak, on-site simultaneous interpretation at events was a costly but necessary part of the budget for international events.
Event organizers had to track down interpreters knowledgeable about their event’s specific topics and the speakers’ fields of expertise, often needing to fly in specialized interpreters and provide room and board.
Headset equipment needed to be rented and isolated booths needed to be built, increasing costs.
The introduction of remote simultaneous interpretation meant that event organizers now have access to a wider pool of interpreters at their fingertips, such as interpreters for rarer language pairs and more specific topics, without needing to deal with the issue of location. This results in cost savings of 30-40% when switching over to remote simultaneous interpretation.
This period of adjustment to virtual workplaces and meetings may change how teleconferencing and events operate in the long-term. As industries start seeing the savings for bringing their operations online, after the outbreak has died down, we can expect to see a continued increase in demand for remote simultaneous interpretation.
HI-COM is a multilingual translation agency dedicated to providing professional translation and interpreting services to businesses around the world. Working with more than 40 language pairs, HI-COM is the go-to localization partner of hundreds of companies and brands! Contact us for your free consultation today!
If you’d like more information regarding remote simultaneous interpretation and cost savings, feel free to get in touch as we’d be delighted to hear from you!