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In business, effective communication is the cornerstone of success. This is true whether you’re in a high-stakes meeting, pitching to investors or meeting with your team. However, communication is challenging in multilingual settings where language barriers can lead to misunderstandings. 

Companies have traditionally defaulted to English when participants don't speak the same language. In-person interpreters and remote simultaneous interpreters are primarily used at high-stakes meetings or big conferences because, while effective, these solutions take time to organise and can be expensive. Fortunately, we’ve entered a new era where AI-driven technology has made language translation more accessible and affordable for businesses of all sizes. 

We compare AI and traditional translation later in this article. But first, we must address the elephant in the room: are multilingual meetings needed if everyone can speak English? This approach may seem simpler, but it often hurts the bottom line. 

The importance of multilingual meetings

The expectation that English can serve as the universal language for all meetings is unrealistic and limiting. Around 1.46 billion people speak English globally, amounting to 18.07% of the world’s population — almost 1 in 5 people. While this number seems huge, it also means 82% of the world does not speak English, according to Statistica research

For another example, of English’s unreliability, consider China. The country has over 1.4 billion people and innumerable business opportunities. Despite China’s presence on the global stage, fewer and fewer people in the country are learning and speaking English. In fact, declining English has resulted in China dropping to 82nd place among 111 countries in the global EF English Proficiency Ranking

Clearly, English can’t be relied on as the default business language. Especially when 46% of employees in international companies already encounter communication challenges due to language barriers — as revealed by a Rosetta Stone report. Poor communication is costly. According to a report by Grammarly and The Harris Poll, communication issues, worsened by language barriers, significantly lower productivity costing U.S. businesses up to $12,506 per employee.

On the other hand, supporting multilingual meetings ensures that non-English speakers can actively participate in whichever language they’re most comfortable in. Enabling multilingual conversations unlocks additional benefits, including increased productivity, improved collaboration, and faster decision-making. By embracing translation, companies can support multilingual meetings that overcome language barriers and streamline communication. Let’s explore how. 

How to add multilingual interpretation for your business meetings

From face-to-face interpretation to using AI apps, several methods are available for enabling multilingual communication at your meetings. While the methods presented below are not in direct competition, the list represents an evolution in translation technology, moving from in-person to remote and AI-driven translation. 

1. Consecutive interpretation

Traditionally, consecutive interpretation involves an interpreter who listens to a speaker and then translates after they finish speaking. While effective, this method is limiting. Consecutive interpretation typically doubles the meeting duration, as the interpreter translates after the speaker finishes. Due to time constraints, only two languages can likely be supported. Even with abundantly long meetings, finding and booking professional interpreters fluent in the exact language combinations needed is a logistical challenge. Depending on where you are, interpreters may not be available. Adding to your logistical burden, interpreters must be briefed on meeting content and background information. 

2. Traditional simultaneous interpretation

Simultaneous interpretation offers a more dynamic approach, with interpreters translating in real-time as the speaker talks. In-person simultaneous interpretation requires dedicated booths, headsets, and microphones for interpreters and participants. Professional AV equipment is also needed, along with a team to set everything up.

3. Remote simultaneous interpretation 

Also called RSI, remote simultaneous interpretation enables interpreters to provide real-time interpretation from anywhere in the world. RSI relies on cloud-based technology and requires a stable internet connection and specialised software. While it eliminates the need for extensive on-site equipment, it does require a minimum AV setup. This is used to transmit the audio and video feeds of the event to the interpreters working remotely on the cloud platform.

At Interprefy, we offer an RSI solution that sources interpreters and delivers live translations for any event setup. With the Interprefy app, attendees can access language interpretation directly from their phones. 

4. AI speech translation

AI-driven solutions offer innovative ways to add language interpretation and translation to multilingual meetings. There are numerous AI solutions, with some offering greater value than others. Most of them, except Interprefy Now, require equipment to capture audio and are limited to pre-programmed languages. 

How does Interprefy solve the in-person multilingual meetings communication challenge?

Aware of the challenges and hurdles that not being able to communicate in your language carry for corporations and institutions, Interprefy has developed Interprefy Now. Interprefy Now is an AI solution providing live AI speech translation and live multilingual captions. All you need is a mobile phone – there is no need for additional AV equipment.

The app allows meeting attendees to speak, read, and listen in the language of their choice. Interprefy Now supports over 3600 language combinations in real-time, ensuring all participants can communicate effectively in their preferred language. All you need to access Interprefy Now is a company subscription, an internet connection, and the app.

When Can I Use Interprefy Now?

Powered by advanced AI technology, Interprefy Now is used in a wide range of scenarios. The solution is fast-to-deploy, requires no equipment setup, and doesn’t require hiring interpreters or translators. The solution’s simplicity and convenience make it an excellent choice for the following use cases:

  • Business meetings — whether it's a team meeting or a client presentation, Interprefy Now ensures professionals can speak and understand in their preferred language.
  • Guided tours — guides can speak in their native language while participants receive real-time translations on their mobile devices. Best of all, seamless translation delivery eliminates the tedious stop-and-start interruptions typical of translated tours or having to attend the time slots available for your language.
  • Pitches — when doing business internationally, immediately communicating ideas to investors or clients in their preferred language can be crucial in securing partnerships. Interprefy Now allows you to instantly translate your message into 80 languages with just a subscription and mobile phone.
  • Training and coaching — participants receive real-time translations in their preferred language anywhere the session takes place, improving engagement, understanding, and retention. By overcoming language and equipment challenges, Interprefy Now makes training and coaching more accessible and inclusive at the click of a button.

Is AI speech translation replacing professional interpreters?

While AI translation technology has advanced significantly, it is not a replacement for professional interpretation. Both AI translation and human interpretation offer unique benefits and provide different experiences for attendees.

When to use AI translation

AI speech translation is better suited for situations where speakers confidently use their native language and speak in coherent sentences. AI translation is cost-effective and convenient for straightforward communication needs and depending on the language, might translate humour, irony, and sarcasm literally. AI also requires speakers to take turns as it can only handle one language at a time, making it less suitable for overlapping conversations.

When to use professional interpretation like RSI

Human interpreters excel at understanding and conveying speaker’s intent as they are equipped to convey humour, irony, and nuanced tones. They can also find ways to deal with overlapping conversations, by, for example, asking participants to take turns. Professional interpretation, on the other hand, requires advance booking and can involve higher costs, and logistical arrangements.

Language translation that puts the world in your pocket

As the next step in the evolution of multilingual translation, Interprefy Now provides a convenient and cost-effective solution enabling attendees to talk, listen, and read in the language they’re most comfortable with. 

Along with eliminating language barriers, Interprefy Now helps users be more effective, make decisions faster, and connect with international meeting participants on the go without any additional audiovisual requirements. 

Explore the Interprefy Now page to learn more about how Interprefy Now empowers professionals to conduct seamless multilingual meetings with just a mobile phone.

Ready to try Interprefy Now for your organisation?

See for yourself how Interprefy Now powers multilingual meetings. Request a free demo and our team will show you exactly how our AI speech translation can cater to your company’s specific language translation needs. 

Patricia Magaz

Written by Patricia Magaz

Learn about the latest developments at Interprefy by Patricia Magaz, Global Content Manager at Interprefy.