Over the past year we have seen a rapid acceleration in our comfort level with all things virtual. High-stakes meetings are held on Zoom, while diagnoses are delivered via telehealth. The rate of adoption for these technologies has gone from a walk to a sprint since the onset of the pandemic, and while there may be some regression to the mean, there is little doubt that they will be here to stay even as we return to a post-lockdown world.

Acceptance of on-demand interpreting is also surging. LanguageLine created virtual interpreting 38 years ago when our founder - a San Jose police officer - invented a way to connect a professional interpreter by phone whenever one was needed. Today we deliver on-demand interpreting in video and audio-only format in more than 240 languages, with more than 13,000 interpreters available at the touch of a button.

Despite these advances, there was still a perception in some areas that an interpreter must always be physically present to be effective. We fully understand that this is clearly the case for some circumstances, but for some situations on-demand interpreting becomes beneficial, or even essential.

Whilst remote, on-demand forms of interpreting have been the emerging formats of language support over the past few years, the transition gained greater momentum during the Covid pandemic, when face-to-face interpreters could often no longer physically attend appointments for reasons of safety and practicality, but where the urgency of situations and the requirement to communicate had certainly not diminished.

During this time, more and more people in need of language access understood the power of one-touch, on-demand interpreting – and in many cases came to prefer it.

Situation Dictates Modality

What many are learning is that no single interpreting format is perfect for every situation. On-demand interpreting in audio or video is a better option in a wide array of scenarios, whereas face-to-face, onsite interpreting is the better option in some situations.

Practitioners should allow the situation to dictate the modality, not vice versa. The right modality depends on immediacy of need and the best way to communicate effectively when an individual requires support. Cost effectiveness should also be a consideration.

When is face-to-face interpreting preferred?

The most valuable human communication is complex by nature. There are certain instances in which there is no substitute for having an interpreter physically present. Face-to-face interpreting still holds incredible value. Onsite, face-to-face interpreting is best for more delicate discussions such as mental health, informed consent, new diagnoses and end of life conversations, when an onsite presence is needed or preferred by the patient.

 Onsite, face-to-face interpreting also allows for the repeated use of a single interpreter, making it the optimal format when interpreter continuity is a critical success factor.

Having a face-to-face, in-person interpreter physically present is often preferred in situations involving:

  • High interaction with multiple participants and unstructured turn-taking
  • Complex, critical, and sensitive situations
  • Young children or those with underdeveloped language skills
  • High use of idiosyncratic language patterns
  • Individuals with a secondary disability (like poor vision) that impedes their ability to utilize technology
  • Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals, although video interpreting is a viable alternative.

What about on-demand interpreting?

On-demand interpreting is unscheduled. With on-demand, the user simply dials a number or presses a button in the LanguageLine app, and a professional interpreter becomes available in seconds. On-demand interpretation is available in video and audio-only formats.

On-demand Video Interpreting

On-demand video interpreting is the virtual interpreting modality that has made the most headway over the past year. It offers the personalisation of face-to-face interpreting, while also having the advantage of immediacy. Press one button and within seconds, a professional, highly trained interpreter arrives in the language of need. Video interpreting is ideal for situations where an interpreter is needed immediately and visual cues are vital to the conversation.

Imagine waking up in a hospital where you don’t speak the same language as your caregivers. You’re sick, you’re scared, and you’re alone. Then someone brings in a tablet or smartphone, presses a button, and up comes someone who looks you in the eye and speaks your language. Through this interpreter, your doctors and nurses are suddenly able to understand not just what you say, but what you mean. This is the power of on-demand video interpreting.

On-demand video interpreting is ideal for:

LanguageLine on-demand video interpreting covers 41 languages, including British Sign Language and American Sign Language.

Alongside the convenience, on-demand video interpreting also removes any costs associated with interpreter travel and delays to clinics. 

Audio Interpreting

As with video interpreting, audio interpreting (also called over-the-phone interpreting or OPI) is available on-demand within seconds. The difference is that more languages are available in audio-only format. In LanguageLine’s case, more than 240 languages are available in audio-only format.

This is another interpretation modality that has swelled in usage since the onset of the pandemic.

Audio interpreting is ideal for shorter conversations and is essential to reach languages of lesser diffusion that may not be available in person or with video. It is also commonly used for a myriad of conversational topics and situations that do not require visual cues.

Over-the-phone interpretation is particularly useful for organisations faced with providing language services to an increasingly diverse patient population, as it offers access to qualified interpreters in a wide variety of languages.

While common language requests are often fulfilled by onsite and video remote interpreters, less common language needs are more easily met over the phone. Another advantage of over-the-phone interpretation is the significant cost efficiencies made possible by the format. 

LanguageLine can help

Thanks to the pandemic, we are experiencing a widespread cultural acceptance of new technologies. On-demand interpreting is an innovation that is achieving critical mass. Even as we exit lockdown, video and audio interpretation will be here to stay. Accessibility, immediacy, efficiency and environmental impact are all factors.

Which modality is right for you? The appropriate use of video, audio, or onsite, face-to-face interpreting is situation dependent.

Fortunately, LanguageLine provides 360 degrees of language-access coverage.

LanguageLine is able to get you connected to our team of 13,000 professional, on-demand interpreters via audio or video in 30 seconds or less. We can also handle your onsite interpreting needs and have developed a further video solution to cater for pre-booked appointments via video platforms. Additionally, LanguageLine can translate and localise your written content. We provide these services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

It all starts with a conversation. Please contact us via our website or by calling 0800 169 2879 .