Of all the nightmarish situations one can imagine, being unable to communicate in a dire situation is likely either at or near the top of the list. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a dire situation: it could be anything from discussing healthcare products with Thai manufacturers, reaching agreements to sell products in Peru, or dealing with legal proceedings in Moldova. As has been said many times before, being able to effectively communicate can make or break any situation; however, due to location, availability, and cost, in-person translation services have not always been possible. Thankfully, today’s word, video remote interpreting, is changing that.
Essentially, being interpretation services that are on video and remote, today’s term defines itself, though it’s still important to address its components. Coming from the Latin verb video, meaning ‘I see’, video’s use relative to the creation and distribution of video content can be traced back to the Rocky Mount (North Carolina) Evening Telegram, writing on 6 November, 1952 that: “Essentially a video tape recording would resemble an ordinary home-recorded tape of Junior playing the piano.” Denoting something that is located at a distance from another object, remote, from the Latin remotus, meaning ‘afar off or distant in place’, comes to English through the early 1400s translation into Middle English of Palladius’ Opus Agriculturae (or De Re Rustica), stating: “If there be trees, upstock them by the root, here one, there one, to leave after remote [L. raro relictis] I hold it good.” Finally, interpreting, the verbal noun of interpret, coming from the Latin for ‘explain, understand, or translate’ (interpretari), first appears in the 1382 Wycliffite Bible, specifically in Daniel 5:16, where it is written: “I heard of thee, that thou mayst interpret dark things, and unbind bound things.”
Operationally, video remote interpreting works in much the same way as Skype, Google Meet, Webex, or any other video chat platform. Though the technology and resources used remain the same (webcam, computers, tablets, etc.), the difference lies in the fact that the interpreter is using the technology to interpret the conversation remotely. In other words, an interpreter from the United States can remotely interpret for a meeting being held in South Korea in real-time, thus increasing availability, decreasing the ancillary cost of in-person translation, and taking into consideration travel restrictions, such as we are currently experiencing.
Discounting places like India and the Philippines, where English is a second language, approximately 72% of the world’s population doesn’t use English to communicate – that’s over 6 billion people. Adding to this, 20% of US residents don’t speak English at home, 14% of Canadians don’t speak English or French at home, and, in England, 8% have a main language that isn’t English. To put it another way, whether foreign or domestic, the odds are high that you or your business/organisation will eventually have to deal with someone in a language other than English, and, when that time comes, video remote interpreting will allow you to focus on your message, not finding any interpreter who can be in the right place at the right time.