How COVID-19 is changing Language Interpretation Services

How COVID-19 is changing Language Interpretation Services


While the entire world is suffering from lockdowns, at the same time it is going through a digital transformation without precedents. The Language and Interpretation Industry is ready to introduce digital innovation and new services.


COVID-19 has transformed the world conclusively, compelling the translation and interpretation industry to hastily adopt digital technology.   Since early March, international associations and multinational corporations have had to turn global events and seminars into online video conferences. 

While frontline workers stand as the heroes of this crisis, interpreters, and translators have been proven essential to the smoothening of operations through many industries — from medical appointments and court hearings to government conferences and online learning. 

However, there has been an influential strain on interpreters suddenly adjusting to new remote and WFH conditions—a situation that now looks pretty normal to everyone across the globe. 

Interpretation service providers have to work remotely


Though many translators are not new to working from home with the assistance of glossaries and style guides. It’s the interpretation service providers who cannot work remotely who have been hit the hardest.  The coronavirus had a notable impact on the income of translators.  Companies who provide on-site interpretation services have also felt the pressure to invest more in these services. 

According to the Time Magazine, hospitals decided to increase their budgets in remote interpreting services as a clear signal of continuous adaptability about the new normal. Natalya Mytareva, the Executive Director of the Certification Commission for Health Care Interpreters (CCHI), understands the importance of clear communication between doctors and patients when remote interactions are a big part of the everyday work. In an interview to Time Magazine, Natalya said,  “If the doctor is basing the diagnosis on the wrong information because they didn’t have an interpreter, then what good is that doctor?”

Obstacles in the communication between doctors and patients in hospitals or health centers can be critical — even a matter of life or death. Consequently, It is vital to guarantee security for professional and medical interpreters. 

As a solution, The American Translators Association signed a document asking to include all the on-site interpreters eligible for Phase 1 COVID-19 vaccinations. The main argument to this request lies on the fact that on-site medical interpreters risk their lives by saving others in their daily work. They are in contact every day with patients, medical staff  and healthcare professionals. 

But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, new features will be developed through technology, and remote assistants can be easily approached without any bias. 

Language and Multilingual Service Providers report a rise in interpretation services demand  


While Language Service Providers observed a decrease from sectors such as travel, events, or leisure, certain verticals seem to have registered a surge in demand.  According to an esteemed survey, 64% of Language and Multilingual Service Providers report a rise in demand for interpretation in the healthcare sector, with 59% reporting an increase in demand from the life sciences, pharmaceuticals, and medical sector. 

However, the change in demand for interpretation services seems to vary greatly between different sectors. Companies that were already providing remote or virtual interpretation services are now thriving while looking for ways to maintain internal and external communications. 

How’s the future of OPI and VRI coming along? 


To return to normality, some Language and Multilingual Service Providers are encouraging more of their workforce to work from home, using online interpretation platforms and videoconferencing to engage. In this new normal, it’s the way of the future and an inescapable progression that has been sped up by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With many companies extending their home office policy until 2021, most events are probably going to continue in virtual and hybrid scenarios. For that reason, the new normal has changed Language and Translations Services. And Digital Innovation is a great opportunity to develop flexible and scalable solutions. 

One of them is over–the–phone interpretation (OPI) which is part of the Remote Interpreting Services. ¿How it works? It is a process by which the interpretation is carried out over the phone, instead of face-to-face or in–person. It is useful when the interpreter is needed immediately and there aren’t possibilities of traveling, or if it is in a remote location. 

Another technology that is part of the Remote Interpreting Services is video remote interpreting (VRI), in which the interpreter has to provide a video telecommunication service using different devices. In the case of health care in scenarios like COVID-19, over-the-phone interpretation can be powerful for diagnosis and clinical assistance.

In-person interpretations: in some cases to improve sign language


Other cases will need in-person interpretations, as is important to  understand and use corporal language. For example, Sign Language Interpreting is when the speech must be interpreted using sign language, so that viewers or attendants who communicate in this way or have difficulties in hearing can understand what is being said.

Sign language interpreting makes language and content accessible for all. This is why it is great news that The American Translators Association has recently asked for vaccines for the professional interpreters.

Counting on different possibilities gives us flexibility and more tools to improve every day health care work. Choosing the right technology to ensure communications fluidity between patients and doctors is why research and vendor comparison is extremely important at this point.

Otherwise, someone’s life can be put at risk if a misunderstanding occurs. At the same time, having native interpreters might be crucial in order to communicate cultural and social speech particularities. 


Hugo Rizzi

CEO at Language Solutions Team

Laura Aguirre

Marketing Manager at Language Solutions Team

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