Language Interpretation in the Modern World

Language Interpretation in the Modern World

In a 21st Century world where communication knows no boundaries, language interpretation plays a pivotal role in bringing greater understanding between peoples and cultures and facilitating meaningful and productive dialogue. From the simplest personal interaction to full international conferences on a governmental level there are so many settings in which the value of interpreting makes a difference and brings human beings together in common understanding.

The purpose of this article is to look at some of the settings and determine which kind of interpreting is appropriate bearing in mind the technical advances that have been recently made. Weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of each is important in determining how clean and clear the communication is.

Consecutive Interpreting – Liaison Interpreting:

This is the simplest setting and the one that has been there from time immemorial.

Two people wanting to understand one another, who don’t share the same language. A captain of a trading sailing ship coming into port and meeting a merchant who doesn’t speak his language. An emissary from one country being sent to another and finding that his fellow diplomat doesn’t speak the same language. Fast forward to an English speaking company executive trying to source raw materials from another part of the world. Or simply a traveller falling sick on holiday and being taken to hospital.

In these situations they need a third person, an interpreter, who  has mastered both their languages. The person speaking utters a few  sentences and pauses  to allow the interpreter to translate them into the second language and so it continues, with the first speaker and then the second in response to what has been said.

The interpreters act as "liaison" or the connection between the parties and the translation follows  the speech consecutively – one after the other. Hence, the names  - liaison interpreting, or consecutive interpreting.

Clearly, this setting has the advantage of not requiring anything else other than the interpreter. However  it comes with limitations. The flow of the conversation is necessarily fragmented and its length will be at least doubled. Furthermore, it can only  be applied to one language combination at a time so that all other participants will have to listen to the translation. Generally speaking the interpreter will be required to travel and join the meeting at a chosen location. Naturally this cost would be borne by the client and so  the  service needs to be planned well in advance. So, In person meetings of this kind are logistically challenging.

To this day this type of service is still used for situations where detailed explanations and clarifications are necessary, such as witness testimonies and depositions, where doctors are dealing with patients or where businesses have sensitive technical information to share.

However times have changed and we come to the next method of delivery.

Remote or telephone interpreting

The same method of consecutive interpreting is applied in conversations where the interpreter is remotely connected to the parties, rather than being physically present

This kind of service, is known as Over-the-Phone Interpreting – OPI for short – and in this day and age, is the most widespread form of conducting consecutive interpreting. The advantages over the previous method are clear. The service can be obtained with short notice or even immediately, paying for its actual duration and avoiding the costs associated with transporting the interpreter to the meeting location.

Nowadays, these services are usually handled through practical and efficient on-line service platforms like ABLIO OPI, where customers can manage the entire operation themselves from the initial interpreter request, to the actual meeting through to the final reporting and billing.

Simultaneous Interpreting:

For conventions, seminars and conferences, simultaneous interpreting is the method of choice. Here, interpreters listen to speakers on the conference floor and at the same time translate into their particular target language.

In order to fulfil this function, they work, in sound proof booths, with headsets to capture the audio from the conference floor, with a microphone and console enabling them to control their output and switch from one language to another.  

From the interpreters point of view this is both exacting and taxing and depending upon the length of sessions will usually require interpreters to work in pairs and alternate themselves in translating during the event.

Those attending the conference that need translation listen to the output from the interpreters on headsets using special portable devices, which allow them to choose from a menu of languages that are being provided by the conference organizers

For this to happen a technical infrastructure, made up of dedicated systems that must be rented and installed on the event site with all of the associated cost of technicians and technical rehearsals with interpreters engaged on a daily tariff.

With the advent the internet and improved and robust connectivity, it’s now possible to have interpreters operating remotely and there are now Simultaneous Interpretation platforms (commonly called "RSI platforms") which can capture the floor at any conference or event, transmit the signal to the interpreters and then re transmit the interpretation to delegates either through mobile phone applications or web pages.

With interpreters acoustically isolated and the participants using headsets, speeches can be simultaneously translated into many different languages and there is no interruption or disturbance to what’s being said from the conference floor..

Compared to consecutive interpreting, simultaneous interpreting requires an infrastructure that facilitates its execution. However, the use of RSI platforms like Ablioconference has made it more practical and efficient: Participants listen to the translation via their smartphone or tablet while the interpreters operate remotely, thus allowing significant savings on event costs compared with the use of hardware-based solutions.

Our Complete Guide to Simultaneous Interpreting will help you better understand the different methods and identify the best solution for your needs.

All these services require that the interpreters go through specific training for performing in simultaneous interpreting mode.

Interpreting in video conferences

Simultaneous interpreting is also increasingly used for events and conferences held via videoconference or on virtual event platforms. In this case the interpreters need to  participate in the video conference, but their translation is transmitted in the conference on a separate audio channel. Participants therefore have the option of listening to the audio channel of the speaker or that of the translation. Some video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or WebEx, incorporate this function internally, while others require listening to the translation via an additional, external channel.

For video conferences and virtual events with multiple language combinations, it is always advisable to perform the interpreting service via a RSI platform, as it allows for better management and control of the entire service flow.

The best listening experience is obtained by following the video conference on a personal computer, listening to the original on the computer speakers and the translation on a smartphone through headsets, thus replicating the same user experience of an in-person event.

Whispered Interpreting: (Chuchotage)

This is a particular method of simultaneous interpreting. Here, the interpreter whispers the translation of what is said to a person next to him (chuchotage in French means "whispering"). As such, it does not require any device to run, however it can be used to translate for just one or two people. It’s a method used in only a few settings, for example escorting foreign guests visiting a Country with the interpreter standing close to  the group  and whispering the translation of what is being said. Other settings could be formal dinners, factory tours or one to one business meetings.

Given that the interpreter can be in close contact with the listener even for long periods, interpreters should also have appropriate interpersonal relationship skills.

Other interpreting settings

Other ways of interpreting include sign language interpreting, post-production interpreting, linguistic mediation and automated interpreting.

In sign language interpreting, the interpreter uses the particular sign language to translate speeches to hearing-impaired audiences. It is offered by specialised companies and used for in-person or videoconferencing events.

Hybrid forms of interpreting, combined with written translation and diction skills, are used in audio/video post-production services to generate videos with voice-over or subtitles.

In linguistic mediation the interpreter has knowledge of the cultural environment, the habits and customs of the parties, and also acts as a bridge and connection between them. It is mainly used in activities related to migrants.

Automated interpreting consists in the fact that the service is carried out by computers using special programs based on artificial intelligence. Technological development for the automated translation of written texts is progressing at great pace and has already produced work tools that considerably simplify and speed up translators' tasks. However, for live interpretation they are not yet able to obtain results comparable to those of human interpreters, although it is worth mentioning that some proposals of this type are already present on the market but still in  embryonic form.


There’s been a thread running through this article which leads to the emergence of Remote Interpreting, something made possible, first with the telephone and now with the internet.

As we have seen this allows interpreters to work from any location and can be especially useful for virtual conferences. It’s  ideal for situations where interpreters need to provide their services globally without the need for physical presence. It’s a new  specialism, offering cost-effective language solutions, especially when on-site interpreters would be expensive or otherwise unavailable.

We’ve seen how Interpreting is a dynamic field that empowers global communication. The choice of interpreting method depends on various factors, including the context, audience, and desired level of accuracy. While each method has its pros and cons, the importance of skilled interpreters is key.

Our experts are always available for free consultations and estimates, and eventually organise the interpreting service that mostly suits your needs.

Using state-of-the-art IT & telecommunication technologies, ablio makes language interpretation services easily available to everyone, in any context, by creating tools and service platforms that are supported by its own community of live interpreters.

For further information please visit our websites: - General Website - OPI Platform - Simultaneous Interpreting Platform