Remote Interpreting: The booth of the future

A promising reality for interpreters

O artigo “Interpretação remota: a cabine do futuro” ganhou uma versão em inglês feita pela querida colega Gio Lester. Vamos conferir e divulgar para os amigos gringos?
The remote interpreting train is taking off. What are you going to do? Hop on or watch it go? Photo by Eutah Mizushima on Unsplash

Technology’s presence in the professional translator’s routine was already a well-established reality when I joined the translation market. I did not witness firsthand the digital revolution many experienced colleagues went through. They tell us about that time, highlighting resistance by one or another colleague.

On the other hand, my professional generation is following closely the heated debate over machine translation by platforms and software trainable by us, humans. The resistance, once again, is present is that scenario: some colleagues already proclaim the end of the profession, others see the benefits in these technological advances.

I do not condemn the former: every change carries a certain dose of fear. I, personally, congregate with the daring crowd, embracing these innovations without fear of happiness, knowing that, when properly used, these tools save our energy and increase our productivity.

Today, in 2017, while fashioning my space, little by little, inside the conference interpreting market, I see the opportunity of actively participating in a revolutionary wave that is slowly harnessing power: remote interpreting.

The future is now

The possibility of interpreting an event from your own home office is already a reality for many interpreters outside of Brazil — and we are opening our doors to that practice. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to test this novelty by interpreting for ConVTI using the Headvox platform. And what an experience, my friends!

Working directly from Rio de Janeiro’s Zona Norte together with my dear boothmate Roberta Barroca, who was interpreting directly from Miami, Florida, I gave voice to three of the event’s collective, live sessions. The Spanish booth was spread through different Mexican cities while speakers and attendees joined us from all over the world.

The platform is very user-friendly: all those who wanted to hear the event in Portuguese had to do was click on the Brazilian flag to access the channel with my voice or Roberta’s. We were connected to the platform through a login protocol different from that of the other participants, and we also selected the Brazilian flag to indicate to all the language we would be speaking.

Despite the platform’s ease of use, the handover between interpreters isn’t very efficient yet. To avoid any uncomfortable interruption in the listening experience for the audience, we decided to do the handover every half hour, and we quickly adapted to the routine. I dare say that I felt at ease with the platform due to the fact that I am used to the online classes I take with the very competent Interpret2b team, a pioneer initiative for remote interpreter professionalization in Brazil.

Despite a few connection issues that, quite often, were outside the control of Headvox developers, the roundtables we interpreted flowed easily and all — organizers, attendees and interpreters — were happy with the final result of this great event, ConVTI, a pioneer in its proposal to deliver a professional development channel of quality and accessible (financially and geographically). Let whoever did not attend at least one session from the comfort of the living sofa throw the first stone!

Calm down! The apocalypse is not here (yet)

Summarizing, here is the truth: remote simultaneous interpreting has come to claim its place in the hall of professional interpreting modalities. Contrary to what many fear, it is not going to fully replace the interpreter, because those events that require the presence of these professionals are not going to disappear overnight. As I learned from the highly skilled speakers at ConVTI, the remote modality is one more opportunity of work for interpreters. The only professionals that will be replaced in this story are those who decide not to use these tools.

Therefore, if there are reasons to go into apocalypse mode, they certainly are not found in the last technological launches in the world of translation and interpreting. My suggestion to my Brazilian colleagues is: Let’s take advantage of this trend’s strong steps in our backyard to join in, embracing the cause and staying open to giving the platforms a chance. The more involved we are, more power and authority we will have to define the path these remote platforms will take. It’s like that old saying by Gandhi, paraphrased into pure carioquês: Want change? Be the change.

To the brilliant ConVTI organizers, Giovanna Lester and Márcia Nabrzecki, thank you very much for trusting my work. It was an incredible experience to be part of the event as a whole and especially as an interpreter. Hope that we have many more opportunities of work and professional development together!

To Roberta Barroca, my virtual boothmate, thank you very much for all the support and partnership — within and outside the booth. You rock!

Do you want to understand better what remote interpreting is and what is happening in the world about it? Subscribe to interpreter Barry Olsen’s channel and watch all of his videos. It is simply inspiring! The content is all in English.