It would be a challenge to find an industry in modern times that has not been turned on its head at least once by the advent of a new technology. Most industries find themselves sprinting to catch up with a new technological advancement every week. And while an industry such as interpretation that relies so heavily on human connection has evolved more slowly than some, human communication in general has been fundamentally changed by technology. Below are three of the most obvious impacts these technologies have brought to the field of interpretation.
One of the first major changes to the interpreting market came with the advancements in telephonic technology. Conferencing features allowed interpreters to provide spoken language interpreting services remotely, beginning in the 1980’s. When an onsite interpreter was unavailable due to remote locations or uncommon languages and dialects, telephonic interpretation was a major breakthrough in access. It also solved the need for immediate access to interpretation services during emergency situations, when an interpreter would need to be dispatched to a location.
Video conferencing technology allowed for the next breakthrough in the modernization of interpreting. By providing real time video feeds, interpreters could now take advantage of visual cues, which allow for a clearer interpretation. Utilization of video interpreting offered remote interpreters environmental context, facial expressions and body language to take into account, more closely resembling a traditional, face-to-face interpretation. Not only that, but video now offered a remote option for sign language interpretation, increasing access to services for the Deaf community.
Both telephone and video remote interpreting provided remote options for consecutive interpretation, but neither was well suited for remote simultaneous interpretation. UN-style, conference and event interpretation was for many years largely untouched by serious technological advancements. But, with the advent of mobile technology and the widespread use of mobile applications, modernization has finally reached simultaneous interpreters and the clients they serve.
Mobile applications can now replace much of the hardware previously necessary for simultaneous interpretation. The ability for interpreters to work remotely negates the need for an expensive and cumbersome booth, as quality headphones replace the need for a traditional receiver. Computer software utilized by the interpreter includes an embedded, real-time video feed of the presentation, so visual cues can provide context. And compared to traditional interpretation, setup is a breeze; no more queueing attendees waiting to check out a receiver, as interpretation recipients can simply and easily download an app to their mobile devices.
Although is hard to say what new technologies are coming down the pike in the coming years that will shake up the field, one thing is certain. As technology becomes more and more integrated into the way we communicate and engage with each other, so too will technology impact the way interpreters connect with their clients. And, technological improvements are a win-win for everyone; by increasing access, lowering costs and bridging barriers, more people than ever before will have the tools they need to tap into the worldwide conversation.