Technology's Role as Interpreting Becomes More Important

By David Fetterolf, President, Stratus Video Interpreting

David Fetterolf, President, Stratus Video Interpreting

Where would modern translation and interpretation be without technology? Imagine overcoming a language barrier even as recently as one hundred years ago. You would have to transcribe the spoken language by hand, translate your transcription to the target language, send the translation to the recipient via snail mail and ever so patiently await their response. Tedious wouldn’t even begin to describe such a process. The demand for interpretation and translation has been around for centuries, but as the world continues to grow more diverse, interpreters are more necessary than ever. Thanks to great strides in technological advancement, the process of transferring meaning between languages is much faster and more efficient. Breakthroughs in residential broadband internet and remote interpreting capabilities give translators and interpreters freedom to work from anywhere with reliable high speed internet. More specifically, five key factors are shaping the role technology plays in interpretation today: webcasting, high-definition audio and video, e-documentation, information technology and apps.  

“As technology advances and takes new forms, the need to better communicate with others simultaneously does as well.”


Webcasts are becoming increasingly popular as a resource for conference interpreting, offering specialized features to interpreters who need to switch off to avoid interpreter fatigue. Webcast-multimedia presentations are streamed over the Internet, broadcasting audio and video content to multiple simultaneous listeners and viewers. Webcasting can be streamed live and is also available on-demand.   

Adobe Connect and Webex are two popular web-conferencing systems that provide chat windows designed to facilitate communication between interpreters regarding terminology questions, sound quality and turn taking.   

High-definition audio and video  

Advancements in high-definition audio and video have shaped modern day consecutive interpreting to include both over the phone interpretation (OPI) and video remote interpretation (VRI). Both methods empower interpreters with the capability to work remotely. OPI used to be the preferred language-access solution for many hospitals prior to the invention of VRI. With OPI, healthcare providers place calls to interpreter call centers on-demand and pay by the minute for the service. VRI technologies, on the other hand, utilize videoconferencing software, mobile devices and a high-speed Internet connection. Stratus Video is an example of a VRI service that uses technology to connect clients with interpreters in less than 30 seconds. While OPI best facilitates simple verbal exchanges not requiring visual communication, video technologies provide the closest approximation to face-to-face interpretation.   

Imagine trying to have a three-way conversation in two languages without any visual cues. It would be challenging and time consuming. The exchange of visual information makes VRI especially effective for sign-language and mental-health interpretation – an aspect that is invaluable for communication that is not only accurate but also empathetic.  

Non-verbal cues play a very important role in medial interpreting. Body language, tone, and emotional intonation all contribute significantly to effective communication. In fact, studies have shown time and again that the majority of human communication isn’t verbal, reinforcing the undeniable importance of high-definition video when it comes to the provider-patient exchange.  


E-documentation is revolutionizing the world of translation. Hospitals are using mobile devices and tablets for data entry, digital pens for automated prescription refills and interactive voice-response systems for emergency contact. The transition from print to electronic data collection has developed the electronic case repost form (eCRF). All of these technological advancements in the medical field are challenging translators to optimize their translation memory systems and terminology databases to incorporate official regulatory terms so they can maintain consistent and accurate translation across all devices.   

Information Technology   

Advancements in the field have made continuing education more essential than ever for simultaneous and consecutive interpreters and translators who can no longer depend solely on their experience and knowledge to remain competitive. Industry professionals also need to be well-informed on information technology to avoid issues that could otherwise negatively impact work quality and client satisfaction.  


Another technological advancement revolutionizing the world of interpreting is the use of apps on tablets and mobile devices. Some apps offer machine-automated translation while others provide language-access services connecting to live interpreters. Even medical devices are using mobile apps as remote controls for device displays. Language access is now available anywhere at anytime.  

Technology is playing a large role in the world of interpretation and translation. It’s continuing to grow at a rapid pace and constantly evolving in new ways we previously thought impossible. As technology advances and takes new forms, the need to better communicate with others simultaneously does as well. The healthcare industry and diversity of the world’s population continue to grow in parallel with technology, thus increasing the demand for a comprehensive service that offers instant, accurate and immersive language interpretation. 

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