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In today's globalized world, communication across different languages is more important than ever before. As businesses expand their operations to new markets, there is a growing need for interpreters to bridge language barriers and facilitate communication.

Traditionally, this has been done through physical interpreter booths, where interpreters are stationed at an event or meeting and provide interpretation services in-person. However, with the rapid advancements in technology, virtual interpreter booths have emerged as a powerful alternative.

In this blog post, we will explore the advantages of interpreting software, virtual interpreter booths and how they can help upgrade the interpreter booth as we know it. We will delve into the reasons why more and more businesses are turning to virtual interpreter booths and what benefits they offer over their analogue counterparts.

A brief history of interpretation equipment

For thousands of years, consecutive interpretation and whispered interpretation have been used to translate between civilizations. However, simultaneous interpretation, which has greatly aided in the speeding up of the translation process of speech, is a relatively novel concept.

The Nuremberg trials (1945-1946) are regarded as the official birthdate of simultaneous interpretation.

The first usage of simultaneous interpretation technology, however, may be traced back to the 1920s, such as during the IV Pan American Conference in 1922 or the National Labor Conference in 1927.

However, it wasn't until the late 1940s that simultaneous interpretation became widely employed in international conferences. For the following 70 years, soundproof boxes equipped with headsets and microphones, would be set up in conference rooms as the standard equipment for simultaneous interpretation.

interpreter booth-minImage: Traditional interpreter hard console inside an interpreting booth

It wasn't until 2014 that the concept of a virtual booth, with interpreters working from advanced interpreting software rather than a physical console, was made commercially available by Interprefy.

The limitations of the traditional interpreter booth

Physical, analogue interpreter booths have been the go-to solution for multilingual communication for several decades. These soundproof booths are typically set up at conferences, meetings, and other events, and it's where interpreters sit to provide interpretation services through an interpreting hard console.

High expense and administrative work

However, physical interpreter booths have several limitations. One of the most significant drawbacks is their high cost, which includes not only the rental fees for the booth and analogue hardware equipment but also the expenses associated with travel, accommodation, and daily allowances for interpreters.

In addition, the administrative work required for physical interpretation is a significant factor in why more and more businesses are turning to interpreting software, which offers a more cost-effective and flexible solution.

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Limited space and language options

Additionally, physical booths can take up a considerable amount of space, making it challenging to accommodate them in smaller venues. Moreover, the need for interpreters to be physically present at the event restricts their availability and limits the number of languages that can be offered. 

High risk in times of uncertainty

In 2022, flight cancellations and delays reached a new high. Global travel and inflation have brought a lot of uncertainty to event organisers.

If interpreters are unable to reach the venue in time, the success of events may be at risk.  Organisers could ask them to fly in earlier but that would add even more cost to the interpreting ticket.

What's more, you may have an audience, or even speakers joining remotely. Adding a hybrid element to your event can become very challenging if your interpreting technology isn't designed to deal with flexible hybrid requirements and can't integrate with meeting platforms.

The rise of the virtual booth

While physical interpreter booths have served as a crucial tool for multilingual communication, their limitations have paved the way for a more flexible and cost-effective solution: virtual interpreter booths.

How the virtual booth works

Virtual interpreter booths work similarly to physical booths, but with the added option of being entirely digital. Using a computer, a cabled internet connection, a microphone, and specialized software, interpreters can provide their services remotely from anywhere in the world, or even from a soundproofed booth.

The software used for virtual interpreter booths typically includes a video conferencing platform that allows interpreters to see and hear the event. It also includes features that enable them to collaborate with their colleagues and even support technicians during the interpretation.

The audio and video are transmitted in real-time through the software, so that interpreters can follow the event smoothly and work efficiently while their interpretation is sent also in real-time to the audience. 

virtual interpreter booth-min (1)Image: Interpreter working from a virtual booth at an interpreting hub at Simul in Japan

Where interpreter software stands out

The advantages of choosing remote interpreting software over hardware range from lower costs and administrative burden to greater flexibility in the number of languages you may offer, to a reduction in carbon emissions.

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Risk mitigation

Because interpreters are not necessarily required to be on-site, there is no chance of an interpreter failing to arrive on time or cancelling with short notice. The correct linguistic talent can be assigned even at the last minute when working with a remote interpreting partner.

Improved efficiency

Because of the ease of implementation, interpretation can even be provided on short notice. This speedy turnaround allows organisations and businesses additional planning and scheduling flexibility. It also makes it easy to fulfil additional language requirements.

Better tools for interpreters

After pilots and air traffic controllers, the World Health Organization placed simultaneous interpreting as the third-most demanding job in the world in a 2007 research.

Providing interpreters with the right tools can help reduce stress and risks of failure, ultimately helping them achieve excellent performance.

Better collaboration tools

The most effective virtual booth software will give interpreters powerful and intuitive tools for working with both their interpreting partners and support technicians. Included in this are specific chat capabilities with shortcut messages, clever handover tools, timers, and document sharing options.

Better visibility

Sound booths are frequently positioned in less-than-ideal locations due to space restrictions: off to the side, in the back of the conference hall, or worse, in a different room. In order to respond to non-verbal cues, interpreters depend on having clear sight.

Some virtual booths give interpreters high-quality video streaming of the stage and video broadcasts of their interpretation partners, so non-verbal communication doesn't get missed.

Usage analytics

When broadcasting interpretation digitally to a mobile app or a computer, event managers can access streaming analytics to know how many users used each language channel. And interpreters can see how many people are actively listening to their interpretation.

AI-powered interpreter assistant tools

Interpreters only have a few seconds to comprehend what is being said and begin interpreting if they don't have access to the complete speech's transcript beforehand. Using cutting-edge interpreting software like Interprefy, interpreters can activate automated captioning and double-check important phrases, numbers, and other details.

virtual interpreter booth

Image: Interprefy interpreter soft console

Bringing interpreter software on site

When deciding on the ideal setup, it doesn't have to be a decision of having interpreters join remotely, or having everything on site. The beauty of interpreting software is that it allows for an incredibly diverse array of setups:

Hybrid interpretation setups

Sometimes, not all interpreters can join you at the venue. Utilising interpretation software means you can work with some interpreters on-site, while other interpreters connect remotely.

See how this is achieved at CICG in Geneva.

Using interpretation software to simplify logistics

Even when all interpreters join you locally, the use of interpreting software can simplify things massively. When linking numerous conference rooms, using interpretation software, which includes audio routing and monitoring software, eliminates the need for miles of wire and armies of technicians.

The World Government Summit is an excellent example of how cloud-based technology can simplify things.

support interface-min

Image: Remote Support panel in the Interprefy platform 

Choosing the right interpreter software for your conference

Buyer's Guide to Remote Interpreting

The virtual interpreting booth has many advantages and can help conferences reach their full language and scalability potential. Don't let old myths keep you from reaching it.

Working with a remote interpreting partner even allows event organizers to combine physical booths with the benefits of interpreting software in a flexible manner.

At Interprefy, we've helped remove communication barriers at over 50,000 business meetings, conferences, webinars, and live events. 

Looking to upgrade to the virtual booth? 

Request a Demo

Markus Aregger

Written by Markus Aregger

Head of Marketing at Interprefy