Position statement on remote interpreting

The Board of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) have decided to put forward their position on the use, promotion and provision of remote interpreting.

This is consistent with its mission to “promote the highest standards in the profession” and given the current growth in the number and type of products and services aiming to offer interpreting for situations where the participants are in different geographical locations.

This position encompasses all forms of remote interpreting, whether or not they include video and irrespective of the technological means used to provide them.

Background

While telephone interpreting may have existed since shortly after it became possible to have a three-way telephone conversation, improvements in internet speeds and information technology have made it possible for interpreting to be provided wherever and whenever it is needed, irrespective of the locations of the participants.

In recent years, it has become possible to synchronise the video and audio feeds available to the interpreters, enabling Video Remote Interpreting (VRI). VRI is now routinely offered in many languages, including Sign Languages, and it is possible for a VRI provider in one country to link interpreters in a second country with clients in a third.

The ongoing drive to reduce costs and timescales in legal and medical interpreting, as well as the uneven distribution of professional interpreters across the world, have driven the use of VRI. It is now commonly used in courts, immigration hearings, medical appointments and, increasingly, for webinars and traditional conferences.

Several providers have been founded in recent years to meet this growing need. This has led to the proliferation of different solutions, each with their own interfaces, standards and capabilities. Faced with this growing diversity of solutions available and in recognition of the growing body of research on the effect of remote interpreting on interpreting quality and interpreter mental and physical health, the Board of ITI feel that it is important to lay down accepted standards for the promotion, management and implementation of remote interpreting, as well as for the relationship between remote interpreting platforms and individual interpreters. Our position is therefore found below.

The ITI Board position

  • The Board of ITI recognise the need for and the potential of remote interpreting, especially in situations where it is difficult to find local qualified interpreters.
  • We also welcome ongoing technological efforts to create remote interpreting standards and platforms that offer improved ergonomics for interpreters.
  • However, we also take note of ongoing research showing inter alia that interpreters working remotely find it more difficult to build rapport with other participantsi , tire more quicklyii, feel more distant from proceedingsiii and may suffer physical discomfortiv. We also take note of research showing that quality may drop more quicklyv in remote interpreting compared to in-person interpreting.

The ITI Board recommends the following:

  • The requirements for interpreters in terms of qualifications, experience and briefing should be identical whether interpreting is provided in-person or remotely.
  • Research should continue towards the creation of internationally accepted standards for remote interpreting, including not just technical recommendations for equipment but also for working practices (breaks, equipment, briefing, etc) and for psychological support.
  • Development of improved ergonomics in remote interpreting should continue, with the involvement of specialists from all relevant medical and occupational fields.
  • Remote interpreting platforms and professional associations should work together to ensure that interpreters working remotely are adequately informed of the potential and risks involved in providing this service.
  • Remote interpreting should be recommended for use only in such cases where it is the best viable mode in terms of the location of participants, interpreter wellbeing and client requirements.
  • Remote interpreting should not be promoted as a replacement for or exact alternative to in-person interpreting, rather it should be viewed as a complementary service for those occasions where the location of participants or the lack of local interpreters with relevant qualifications precludes the use of in-person interpreters.
  • Greater co-operation is needed between professional associations and remote interpreting providers to ensure that practices take into account interpreter wellbeing.

i Sabine Braun and Judith Taylor, “Video-Mediated Interpreting: An Overview of Current Practice and Research,” in Videoconference and Remote Interpreting in Criminal Proceedings, ed. Sabine Braun and Judith Taylor (Antwerp: Intersential, 2012), 39, 43.
ii Braun and Taylor, 39.
iii Panayotis Mouzourakis, “Remote Interpreting: A Technical Perspective on Recent Experiments,” Interpreting 8, no. 1 (2006): 52; Jemina Napier, Robert Skinner, and Graham H. Turner, “‘It’s Good for Them but Not so for Me’: Inside the Sign Language Interpreting Call Centre,” Translation & Interpreting 9, no. 2 (2017): 15.
iv Mouzourakis, “Remote Interpreting,” 52.
v Jemina Napier and Marcel Leneham, “‘It Was Difficult to Manage the Communication’: Testing the Feasibility of Video Remote Signed Language Interpreting in Court,” Journal of Interpretation 21, no. 1 (2011): 59; Barbara Moser-Mercer, “Remote Interpreting: Assessment of Human Factors and Performance Parameters,” Joint Project International, 2003.