In the language services field, translators and interpreters play similar but different roles. Translators deal primarily with the written word while interpreters work with the spoken word. Both are integral to bringing people of different languages and cultures together, but more recently the interpreting function has gained increasing traction. The trend is one you should pay attention to.
Consider the rapidly changing makeup of “consumers” in our country, whether they take the form of customers, clients or citizens seeking public services. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 21 percent of the nation’s residents—or about 1 in 5—speak a language other than English at home. That number has climbed 158 percent over the past two decades, a trend which is expected to continue. It’s one of the reasons why the language services and technology market is projected to reach $50 billion a year by 2019.
Here are some of the factors driving the increased demand for interpreting:
Value of Personal Interaction
In business and social interactions, face-to-face communication, or at least mouth-to-mouth, is often the best way to communicate; sometimes it’s the only way. Interpreters facilitate that flow by allowing two or more people to talk together, right now. The ability to see facial expressions and hear auditory cues, like voice inflections or wording emphasis, allows the interpreter to communicate messages better. Even when interpreting by phone, the difference between hearing the spoken word and just translating the written word is huge.
In the past, interpreters usually worked on-site, in the presence of the individuals or groups they were assisting. These meetings usually had to be scheduled in advanced, with little flexibility to respond to unplanned or emergency situations. Today’s technology allows interpreters to work their magic virtually any place, any time. Telephonic interpreting and video remote interpreting (VRI) is becoming increasingly sophisticated to the point where, say, a police officer on the street can quickly arrange to have interpreting services available to help communicate with an LEP citizen. VRI is the fastest growing segment of the interpreting market thanks to devices like iPads, mobile phones and other low-cost computer-based video services that can quickly connect people, regardless of how obscure their language may be. For example, we at ASIST Translations can quickly offer interpreting services in more than 240 different languages.
Federal, state and local anti-discrimination laws require businesses and organizations to ensure equal access to all. Whereas in the past many places would rely on family members or other untrained volunteers to help interpret, that is becoming less acceptable for many reasons, not the least of which is liability. Today, trained and qualified interpreters are necessary to provide the level of access required under Civil Rights laws.
Whiling interpreting services could be considered just a social convenience in many workplaces; in others it can change a life. The healthcare and legal industries, for example, are undergoing profound changes in the way they communicate with patients and clients. Interpreters specifically trained in the medical and legal fields are in growing demand. Their level of experience, understanding and skill can be the difference between life and death, or freedom and prison. These types
of high-risk industries spend billions of dollars each year for on-site, telephonic and video remote interpreting services. The alternative of using machine translations or unqualified interpreters in such critical situations is simply unacceptable. The consequences are too great.
If you’re looking to augment your communication efforts with customers and clients who speak foreign languages, contact us to see how we can assist with on-site, over-the-phone or video remote interpreting services. Our professionally trained interpreters have been satisfying clients for more than 30 years.