I am not sure whether we are lucky or misfortunate to be living these historical moments as we are witnessing a major change in the world and soon people will start referring to this era as before Corona and after Corona. I thought of writing this post from the point of view of an interpreter who worked for a long time as f2f interpreter and I run a translation/interpretation company which allowed me to have a wider view of market. I am one of those who enjoy this profession, I find it exhilarating, exciting, challenging, stressful but rewarding. It is a beautiful job and I had the privilege of working with so many respected colleagues in the profession and I was lucky to meet and be in the presence of celebrities and high profile personalities in the same room like most of conference interpreters and consecutive interpreters. For so many years conference interpreters resisted the inevitable change, working remotely. I see their point and I do agree with them on so many things, however the world is changing, the tide is high, and we will not be able to stop the tsunami of technology. It is argued that the job of human interpreter will be the last to be lost to robots and AI. Having said that, I see that we have no choice but to adapt to technology, update our skills, be open to using gadgets, get rid of the chip on our shoulders that it is not our job to fiddle with equipment. If we want to survive the tide, if we intend to prove that we are among the fittest we must learn about all the new modes of interpretation. Working remotely and technology go hand in hand.
COVID -19 is not but a catalyst that increased the speed of transformation towards more use of technology. My advice to my fellow interpreters, use the challenge and transform it into an opportunity. The world is changing, and our job description might have to change with it. Yes, there will be few events, and conferences that will require our presence where we will enjoy meeting other colleagues, enjoy the elegant venue, and have the privilege of being in near proximity with high profile personalities and celebrities. On the other hand, there will be plenty of opportunities to join a conference on the other side of the planet and carry out the interpretation from our home office. So, tip number one is to invest in a good laptop, excellent headphones, and the best package of internet to be able to carry out your task seamlessly. We might not have the luxury of meeting our booth partner in person and we only get to know her virtually. Economy is suffering and organizers will prefer to recruit a remote interpreter rather than to pay all the expenses of travel and accommodation to bring one over from a different country to work where the conference is happening. I dare say that many conferences might take place virtually, nothing is far from that, especially after we witnessed the G20 meeting happening virtually last week, a thing which I would not have dreamed of. If you are a trained interpreter but not qualified, I advise you to get some sort of qualification that will allow you to apply to players outside the national borders.
Read what AIIC has to say about working remotely, AIIC has accepted this mode of interpretation after resisting it for a long time, however they are still trying to keep discipline and protocol for interpreters to follow in order to preserve the standards.
Work on your skills as the competition is high on an international level and opportunity could become after COVID-19 less available than what we are used to.
Make use of technology such as augmented interpreter, interpretbank, and other digital simultaneous dictionaries that are available right now to help the simultaneous interpreter while working in the booth. Be prepared to go out of your comfort zone and try something you have not experienced before.
Something I have experienced over the years; it is the refusal of many of the simultaneous interpreters to work as consecutive interpreters. I understand that the skills you need to work in consecutive interpretation are slightly different. I realize that the simultaneous interpreter might need to develop a set of codes and symbols to use for notetaking if he is to do consecutive interpreting. He might find himself obliged to use a slightly different technique and depends more on his memory to retain few sentences before he produces them in the target language. I would say we have to be open to enhance our skills and attain new skills that would allow us to be more diversified.
Consecutive interpretation itself also is faced with changes due to the advancement in technology and the needs of the clients around the world. With the development of technology, we are witnessing the new mode of interpretation which is video remote interpretation. In video remote interpretation the interpreter uses a laptop and headphone with mic to connect to a platform and he can receive on demand calls in or pre-booked calls. He can take audio calls or audio/video calls depending on the client and the company that is running the platform. The key factor to work in video remote interpretation is to have a strong internet speed. To my colleagues the interpreters I would say this mode of interpretation is a consecutive interpretation with the use of technology. It is used widely in the USA and to some extent in Europe in the medical field because the government law that guarantees the patient the right to obtain an interpreter in his own language when he attends a clinic of an appointment at a hospital. Also, this mode of interpretation is used to a lesser extent by the police, and law enforcement authorities.
It is the logical solution to be taken by any government department or organization especially in multilingual societies, as it helps in speeding up procedures, eliminates the obstacles of languages and culture, and it is more cost effective for the organizations, not forgetting the economic difficulties all countries of the world has started to witness. From the point of view of the interpreter working in the field of video remote interpretation would allow you to work from home, wherever your home country is, you can work at any hour of the day or night since global players are claiming to provide the service 24/7 depending on interpreters from different countries around the globe. When you sign with a video remote interpretation provider, you go through few steps before you are accepted on the platform and can start taking live calls. In general, I would say it is not as financially rewarding as f2f interpretation, but it has its advantages and we should never forget that we are living in a changing competitive world. Either we adapt to new ways and methods or we become extinct.
Mrs Sahar Moussly