One hundred years ago, what could a translation agency have looked like? Now, it is rather awkward to imagine tables with no PC monitors or laptops connected to Internet, fully equipped with online dictionaries and newest CAT tools. Just paper and feathers, a typewriter – if you're lucky enough, and a pile of thick dusty books containing thousands of words and their translations. At those times, it was not less awkward to imagine that in 2020, interpreters would be able to simultaneously interpret what is spoken miles away from where they are, without leaving home. We at Lingvista consider this year a good year to master modern technologies and develop a new activity area, which is Video Remote Interpretation (VRI).
If you have planned to go abroad for a business trip earlier this year, now you surely know how it all turned out. In spring, everybody tried to postpone their meetings and trips to autumn, but it soon became clear that delays don't make sense anymore – there's a need to look for alternative options to keep business going. Talking to each other on Skype, WhatsApp or other messengers is just a common thing for us in the 21st century, but online communication goes far beyond our personal life right now, because we use it to achieve our professional goals too.
Internet allows us to pass through state borders and quarantine areas, but language barrier is still not easy to overcome without assistance of a linguist. Conferences, seminars and meetings are now held online worldwide, and this is a new workspace for interpreters. Meanwhile, an interpreter doesn't need to be a full-fledged chat participant anymore, and consecutive interpretation is not the only option available online; this is rather an old-fashioned way of working. Due to rapidly developing technologies, today we have special online tools and web platforms opening access to the whole feature set of a conference interpretation booth – all you need to do is click on a link. Interpreters listen to speakers and translate simultaneously, and participants can hear interpretation in their headphones in the real-time mode, straight away. This is how simultaneous interpretation usually works, but now nobody needs to leave home to take part in such event. Another update: preparation to a VRI project is a special challenge.
We asked Elena, Senior PM and the main VRI enthusiast at Lingvista, to tell us more:
"Dealing with VRI projects is an extremely interesting, but also a quite tricky task. Some time ago, a PM was responsible for getting prepared for an event, selecting, testing and approving interpreters, providing them with necessary data and resolving all arising questions. Then, the next stage was gathering feedback after the event had been over. Now, we as PMs can follow the whole process thoroughly, from A to Z."
VRI projects go through several stages:
– Equipment preparation
Interpreters should note that internal microphones and speakers are not good enough to perform simultaneous interpretation professionally. It is obligatory to use high-quality sound equipment to reduce background noises and feedback loops for the audience. While working at home, you should make sure your room is soundproof, as it is going to become your interpretation booth for a while. We are certain that VRI will grow in popularity, so if you are going to work as an interpreter, just have no doubt: reliable high-quality sound equipment will be of a great use for you.
– Technical tests
It is necessary to test applications and tools for online conference and virtual events. This could be Zoom, simple and familiar for everybody (especially in 2020), as well as professional web platforms designed for simultaneous interpretation, offering a full range of interpreter booth features. The tool needs to be checked beforehand by both interpreters and clients, especially if a client’s representative is going to be a moderator. It is convenient to use professional web-based interpretation platforms, because there will always be a professional moderator available, able to solve every possible technical issue. When working on Zoom, Skype or MS Teams, a PM from Lingvista or a client’s representative would play a moderator’s role. This point deserves special attention: you cannot just get familiar with the whole feature set five minutes before the event starts. We had such a case last month: our partner decided to be a moderator without any pre-training in managing VRI process, which resulted in some glitches. Your project will go smooth if only you pay special attention to every small detail, since it is not enough to select pro interpreters. Success depends on the process management, so we would recommend to assign this task to those who know how to do things right. We mean ourselves ;)
– Progress control
Today, a project manager has an opportunity to really take part in a project, which had been rarely possible before. Lingvista representative may be present at a conference (if allowed by a client, of course) – silent and invisible, but always on guard and ready to fix any unexpected issue. The manager can hear interpreters work and control the process by asking them to switch their roles if necessary, turn the sound up or down, stand off the microphone to avoid feedback loops, convey client's comments, etc. Aside from that, a PM is able to observe the way interpreters interact with each other, and conclude if these two make a great partnership or not. This is a very important part of simultaneous interpretation, as it has always been a pair share.
– In touch with everybody
It may be called 'remote' work, although it surprisingly brings everybody closer: this way, Lingvista managers get to know freelance interpreters better (multiple technical tests, equipment checks and exchanging messages connects people). It works for our customers as well: we communicate more, discussing everything they need to know about VRI, and solving all the concerns that may arise.
It is not easy to be pioneer explorers, but it surely is exciting! Last month, we held several VRI projects and made up a whole batch of manuals and how-tos. Obtaining real work experience can't be replaced by reading instructions, because every project is special, containing such subtle details you would never be aware of, looking from an outside perspective. We do our best to foreseen and handle them all. Which means, our how-tos are going to grow in volume – as well as our VRI portfolio, we hope. To get along with this crazy year, just strive for more!