Remote Interpreting: the basics


Remote Interpreting (RI), also called distance interpreting has become indispensable.

Technology is constantly progressing, which is also visible in the field of interpreting. Since the rise of home office and online meetings due to the pandemic, more and more customers have decided to hold meetings and events virtually, which has led to an increase in RI services. In this continuously progressive era of social distancing, RI helps interpreters to continue to provide their services.

What is Remote Interpreting (RI) and when is it used?

In RI, participants and interpreters are located in different places and connected via video conferencing software.

This technique is often used for telephone and video conferences, but also for other kinds of extensive multilingual events. The setting is typically one of the following:

  • On-site event + interpretation booths placed in another location
  • Online event + interpretation booths in a hub (i.e. location from which the interpreters provide interpretation)
  • Online event via an event platform with simultaneous interpreting functionalities
  • Videoconference via Zoom or other platforms (Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, GoToMeeting, Jitsi, etc.) with interpreting functionality.

Which kind of interpreting techniques can be used for RI?

Depending on the requirements and setting, liaison or simultaneous interpreting is used.

For meetings or technical discussions with a short duration and a rather small number of participants, where the interpretation usually comprises only two languages, the technique of liaison interpreting is used. Short sections of speech are interpreted into the languages requested with a time delay and usually no technical equipment.

In simultaneous interpreting, speeches and presentation take place almost at the same time as the speaker’s output. Since this interpreting technique requests a very high cognitive load of the interpreters, two or more interpreters who alternate every 30 minutes are deployed. If simultaneous interpreting takes place via video conference, it is called Remote Simultaneous Interpreting (RSI). RSI is mostly applied to multilingual events.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of RI?


RD reduces costs, saves time, is sustainable, simplifies the organization of meetings and events and enables “contactless” communication with foreign-language customers, business partners and employees.

Participants and interpreters are independent of their geographical location, which leads also to a time saving aspect: commuting and travel time decline. Due to this, interpreters have (theoretically speaking) the possibility to work at more than one event on a given day, while customers can devote the time saved to other tasks.

Costs such as travel, hotel accommodation, on-site fees, investments in equipment (which might be needed for on-site events) as well as organization-related expenses (staff, event organization) and other infrastructure expenses (e.g. the rent of the hall, interpreting booths or other systems) are lower. The budget for events is thus better kept.

Because there is no need to travel, the contribution to the reduction of the CO2-emissions and therefore to the protection of the environment can be a noted advantage.

The event organisation can be more flexible and with short notice, as no rooms have to be rented. If there is a lack of time or an emergency situation (e.g. in the event of an accident), with RI it is possible to react quickly and alternative solutions can be swiftly activated. If there is not enough space for the equipment of a professional interpreting hub with simultaneous technique, RI is used.

The independence of location makes the search for and commissioning of interpreters in several languages more flexible. It is even possible to appoint interpreters which would not be available on-site. Interpreters in this way have the possibility to increase their market value and have access to additional assignments.


Technical problems with the internet, platforms, hardware, servers or technical devices can interrupt or disturb a flawless interpretation. This leads interpreters and customers to invest in high-quality equipment, to avoid technical problems. Costs rise.

The audio quality cannot be guaranteed in the same way as on site. Data protection is another important aspect that complicates RI considerably. By connecting via video, telephone, audio or the use of cloud-based-systems, it is currently still difficult to guarantee data protection for all participants. Interpreters also have to take on the management of hardware and software in addition to an already high cognitive load, which is an extra workload for them.

In what specific settings is on-site interpretation used?

In certain settings with liaison interpreting, on-site interpreting is still the primary choice in Switzerland, particularly due to data protection.

Assignments in the medical field

  • Interpreting via video conference or telephone might be more uncomfortable or alienating for the person concerned or their family members.
  • Sensitive data is used during consultations or expert assessment meetings between patients or insured persons and medical experts. It must therefore be ensured that no third parties have access to this information. Interpreters must consequently provide their services on site.

Assignments in the legal field

  • Court hearings or interrogations by judicial authorities (especially in criminal proceedings) are bound by law to official secrecy. Interpreters provide their services on-site without any exceptions.
  • Only in certain civil hearings can a hybrid solution be used: e.g. If one party is not present in the courtroom but is connected via a video conference. It is important to note that in this case the party is responsible that their matters are dealt discreetly and confidentially by staying in a room outside the courtroom alone. The interpreters, instead, sit in the courtroom without exception and provide their services on site.



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  • Fonseca, D. (24.02.2021) Online Interpreting Practice Groups. Innovation in Interpreting Summit 2021.Kagon Kommunikation. Remote Interpreting. In: Kago Kommunikation [zit. 10.01.2022].

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