Interpreting During COVID-19 and What it Will Look Like After the Pandemic

Sign Language Social Distance

Interpreting During COVID-19 and What it Will Look Like After the Pandemic

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is still raging in the United States. When the pandemic started many people thought life would go back to normal within a month or two. That has not been the case! Most workers are still working from home, interpreters and translators are no different. Today we will look at interpreting during COVID-19 and what it will look like after the pandemic.

On-site Interpreting During COVID-19

During the pandemic, on-site interpreting quickly decreased or stopped altogether. Even though interpreters are essential workers many hospitals and businesses asked them to stay home. When hospitals asked interpreters to stay home, for example, they faced a trade-off. On the one hand, when interpreters stay home there are less people in a hospital to spread infection. On the other hand, without access to on-site interpreters LEP patients have worse health outcomes. These trade-offs happened in every organization that used on-site interpreting.

In the end, most organizations decided to pivot almost entirely to over-the-phone and video interpreting. Even organizations that use interpreting every day decided to have linguists stay home. For example, the United Nations (UN) in New York City had all interpreters start working remotely in March. The UN is famous for having simultaneous interpreting happening during multilingual meetings. Traditionally, UN interpreters would interpret in a sound-proof booth with high tech equipment. Now many interpreters are trying to find a quiet place within their apartments to interpret. Because the UN believes that international diplomacy works best within each side’s native language, they have pushed to get increased access to remote interpreting.

After the pandemic, most organizations, especially within the health field will use less on-site interpreting. It is true that on-site interpreting usually has the best outcomes for LEP people. But after COVID-19 many companies won’t want the scheduling and advance notice that comes with on-site interpreting. On-site interpreting will always be used to some extent, but it will be used less in the future.

Over-the-Phone Interpreting

Over-the-phone interpreting has become very popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over-the-phone interpreting is a fast and reliable way to deliver language services to clients. In addition, over-the-phone interpreting does not need to be scheduled. Plus, it is cost effective. Initially, many organizations switched from on-site interpreting to over-the-phone interpreting. Quickly though, it became clear that over-the-phone interpreting was not appropriate for every situation.

For example, in hospitals, many patients had difficulty understanding and hearing their interpreters over the phone. This is because COVID-19 patients are often in rooms with many loud machines. Also, it could be difficult to see if a patient understood a phone interpreter. Finally, a lot of communication happens through body language and phone interpreters can’t see this.

Phone interpreting may not be used in healthcare organizations as much as it was in the beginning of the pandemic. However, schools and legal organizations have found success with over-the-phone interpreting. Because the dialogue in these fields is not with medical patients, these businesses are able to easily use the phone.

Video Remote Interpreting

Video remote interpreting has become the gold standard during COVID-19 and likely will be in the future. Video remote interpreting (VRI) uses video feeds on smart devices to provide consecutive interpreting. While VRI was gaining popularity, it has seen a surge in demand since the pandemic started. VRI combines the best of on-site interpreting and over-the-phone interpreting.

Hospitals especially have embraced VRI. COVID-19 patients and interpreters understand each other better when they can see each other. Plus, healthcare organizations decrease the amount of people in the hospital who can spread infection.

Just like with over-the-phone interpreting, VRI is cost-effective and convenient. Because of this, video remote interpreting will only increase in popularity after COVID-19.

How Acutrans Is Embracing the Future

Acutrans offers on-site interpreting, over-the-phone interpreting, and video remote interpreting. During the COVID-19 pandemic we have increased our over-the-phone and video capabilities. Our support and technical teams have increased their hours and services. While other businesses leave you to fend for yourself, Acutrans keeps you covered with full-service support.

Unlike many other businesses, we offer HIPAA-compliant phone and video interpreting. Acutrans always keeps data secure. Our remote services are provided on encrypted systems. Plus, our professional interpreters are trained in HIPAA compliance and interpreter ethics.

Our interpreters have adapted very well to remote work. They still provide the highest quality services, just in their own homes! With us, you won’t hear barking dogs or screaming babies, just the LEP person and the other party.


For more information about how Acutrans is providing safe, cost-effective language services visit our website.