A Guide to Interpretation Services and Modalities

Deploying various interpretation modalities such as on-site, phone, and video remote interpreting addresses different scenarios and preferences, ensuring accessibility to essential services for all stakeholders, irrespective of language barriers.
Interpretation services and modalities

Importance of Interpretation Services

As businesses expand globally, healthcare strives for better care outcomes, and educational institutions welcome international students, the demand for professional interpretation services continues to grow. The ability to bridge language gaps is paramount in ensuring accessibility, inclusivity, and quality of service.

By embracing a range of interpretation modalities, organizations can create inclusive communication ecosystems that transcend geographical boundaries and linguistic barriers. In this guide, we delve into three key modalities of interpretation: On-Site (OSI), Over-the-Phone (OPI), and Video Remote Interpreting (VRI). Each method offers unique benefits and applications, catering to different scenarios, industries, and preferences.


What is Over-the-Phone Interpreting?

Over-the-Phone interpreting (OPI), or telephone interpreting, allows individuals speaking different languages to communicate through a three-way telephone call. In situations where face-to-face interpreters may not be readily available or practical, OPI offers a quick solution. This immediacy is particularly valuable in emergencies or time-sensitive matters where every second counts.

How Does it Work?

 A client seeking interpretation services contacts a Language Services Provider (LSP) offering OPI. The LSP then arranges a three-way conference call involving the client, the interpreter, and the customer or patient needing interpretation. During the call, the interpreter listens to the conversation in one language and interprets it in the target language, ensuring accurate communication between the parties. Once the interaction concludes, the call ends and the interpreting session concludes.

Benefits of Over-the-Phone Interpreting

Easy accessibility: OPI can be integrated into existing call channels so that clients can access interpretation services without navigating a separate system or undergoing additional steps. Instead, they can request interpretation assistance during a regular phone call, and the interpreter can join the conversation seamlessly. 

24/7 Availability: OPI services are available at all times, which is especially helpful in emergencies or industries with unconventional working hours. Furthermore, managing time zones can be challenging when dealing with international clients. OPI offers the convenience of round-the-clock interpreting services that accommodate various schedules and time zones.

Cost-Effectiveness: OPI services are billed per minute, unlike traditional face-to-face interpretation which may include additional expenses such as travel and accommodation costs. With telephone interpreting, you only pay for the duration of the call, making it a more cost-effective option.

Flexible and scalable: Whether handling occasional requests for interpretation or managing high call volumes during peak times, OPI services can adapt to fluctuating demand and serve diverse linguistic communities effectively.

Industries That Use Over-the-Phone Interpreting

Clinical Trials: Over-the-phone interpretation plays a vital role in clinical trials, especially when researchers need to communicate with participants from racial and ethnic minorities. For example, a researcher might utilize an interpreter to explain trial procedures to a Spanish-speaking participant via telephone.

Energy: In the energy sector, over-the-phone interpreting can be useful for international business calls or remote troubleshooting of technical issues. For example, an engineer in a power plant might need to discuss a technical problem with experts from a different country.

Consumer goods: Companies catering to an international clientele utilize phone interpretation to offer multilingual customer support. By facilitating communication with customers in their chosen language, businesses can boost customer satisfaction and loyalty.


What is On-Site Interpreting?

In certain situations, having a professional interpreter physically present is essential. On-site interpretation, or in-person interpretation, entails a professional interpreter being physically present at a specific location to aid communication between individuals speaking different languages. Unlike remote interpretation methods, on-site interpreters are physically present in the same room or space as the parties involved in the interaction.

How Does it Work?

The interpreter travels to the location where the interpretation is needed, such as a meeting, conference, medical appointment, legal proceeding, or other relevant settings. Once at the location, the interpreter positions themselves close to the parties involved in the conversation. When one party speaks, the interpreter listens carefully and then conveys the message accurately and impartially in the target language to the other party. Once the conversation or event concludes, the interpreter may provide any necessary summaries or follow-up information before departing from the location.

Benefits of On-Site Interpreting

Accurate Communication: In-person interpreters can directly observe facial expressions, body language, and other non-verbal cues, allowing them to better understand and accurately convey the intended message between parties. They can also better observe and respond to cultural nuances, social dynamics, and sensory cues that may impact communication, ensuring that all parties feel respected and understood.

Flexibility and Adaptability: On-site interpreters can adapt their interpreting style and approach based on the context, participants, and dynamics of the interaction. They can switch between consecutive and simultaneous interpretation modes as needed, or adjust their position, tone, and mannerisms to accommodate changing needs or preferences during the interaction.

Facilitates Building Relationships: In-person interpreting allows for more natural and authentic communication. Being physically present in the same room as the participants allows on-site interpreters to establish a personal connection, build trust, and foster rapport between parties.

Technical Reliability: On-site interpreting does not rely on internet connectivity or technical infrastructure, making it more reliable in situations where internet access may be limited or unreliable.

Industries That Use On-Site Interpreting

Legal: Legal proceedings require precise interpretation to ensure fairness and accuracy. On-site interpreters are often necessary for court hearings, depositions, or client consultations. For example, a law firm represents a client who speaks a language other than the official court language. On-site interpreters assist during depositions to ensure the client’s testimony is accurately understood.

Government: Government agencies often utilize on-site interpreters to serve linguistically diverse populations, especially in areas such as social services, immigration, and law enforcement. On-site interpreters may assist with interviews and interactions between government officials and individuals who require language support.

Manufacturing: Effective communication is crucial for quality control, training, and coordinating production processes. On-site interpreters can support meetings, training sessions, or technical discussions on the factory floor.

Education: In educational settings, interpreters are crucial for events like parent-teacher meetings. On-site interpreters ensure clear communication, bridging language gaps between teachers and non-native English-speaking parents.


What is Video Remote Interpreting?

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) involves a professional interpreter providing language assistance remotely via a video connection. VRI combines the personalization of on-site interpretation with the convenience of on-demand over-the-phone interpretation (OPI). It is an interpretation modality that ensures fluid communication across signed and spoken languages.

How Does it Work?

Video Remote Interpretation provides remote access to professional interpreters via a dedicated and secure video conferencing platform. Clients can easily connect with interpreters alongside their customers or patients over the internet using computers, smartphones, or tablets. Once connected, the interpreter attentively listens to the speaker and translates their message into the preferred language. 

Benefits of Video Remote Interpreting

Versatility: VRI provides support for both signed and spoken language, ensuring inclusivity for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. Its remote accessibility, along with features such as document sharing, enhances communication flexibility.

Convenience: VRI eliminates the need for interpreters to be physically present on-site, saving time and resources for both interpreters and clients. This convenience is particularly valuable when access to qualified interpreters might be limited, especially in rural or remote areas.

Enhanced Communication: VRI enables real-time visual communication between parties, which can enhance understanding and rapport compared to audio-only interpreting methods. American Sign Language (ASL) is a signed language that relies on handshapes, facial expressions, and body movements to convey meaning. These contextual and visual cues are easier to notice on VRI to facilitate more effective communication.

Industries That Use Video Remote Interpreting

Technology: A software development team working with overseas developers could leverage VRI for meetings, code reviews, and troubleshooting sessions, ensuring seamless communication across borders.

Healthcare: As telemedicine becomes increasingly prevalent, Video Remote Interpretation assumes a pivotal role in delivering remote healthcare services to patients who are deaf or hard of hearing. By utilizing video conferencing platforms, healthcare professionals can conduct virtual appointments with American Sign Language (ASL) patients, facilitating immediate interpretation.

E-learning: While international students enrolled in e-learning courses may possess a good understanding of English, they may encounter challenges with complex terminology, idiomatic expressions, or accents. VRI enables students to participate in discussions, ask questions, and engage with instructors without language barriers.


Importance of Leveraging Multiple Interpretation Modalities

Diversifying the interpretation support your organization offers is crucial. Whether it is On-Site Interpretation (OSI), Over-the-Phone Interpretation (OPI), or Video Remote Interpretation (VRI), each modality caters to distinct scenarios and preferences, ensuring accessibility for all stakeholders, regardless of their location, abilities, or circumstances.

On-site interpretation enables immediate and personalized assistance, particularly in sensitive situations where visual and contextual cues are essential. VRI leverages technology to bridge geographical barriers while accommodating busy schedules. Meanwhile, OPI is a quick and flexible solution that can be integrated into your existing call flows. By offering multiple modalities, you can create a seamless and adaptable communication ecosystem that caters to the diverse needs of your community.

PGLS offers a broad range of on-site and remote interpreting services. Our interpreters help you communicate effectively in over 200 languages and bridge language gaps. Get in touch with our team to learn more about our professional interpreting services.