Face to face settings have been the cash cows of interpretation for generations. We go to a place, and do our voodoo. Things today are going in a different direction. We still dabble in the ancient art of word voodoo, but where and how we do it is changing.
My first foray into this was my first few assignments doing telephonic. I had avoided it for as long as possible, after hearing horror stories from a friend that did some pay-by-the-minute medical interpreting jobs.
Her take: It’s a rat race. Just-in-time service. Low pay. Monotonous topics from one conversation to the next. A pure commodity play.
I got interested when an affiliate offered an opportunity to work on a few higher-profile projects, which were quite different from what my friend had been doing, because the pay was higher, the phone call was scheduled, and the topic was complex.
What I got was an excellent opportunity to provide interpreting services to people that weren’t in the same physical location, albeit with a little stretching and bending on my part. It’s can be a great option for people who need a real conversation with someone halfway around the world-as long as the interpreter has an understanding of these and other best practices.
Telephonic is different because of…
While interpreting (consecutively), I prefer that the speakers and I can see each other. I’ve spoken about this here before. The idea is that it’s easier for an interpreter to establish rapport and for all parties to know the best time to start/stop speaking. Telephonic means that speaker transfer happens without the benefit of visual cues (as happens when an interpreter looks up from their notes to signal they’ve finished interpreting, for example). Recommendation: Focus on designing clear and consistent intonation change in your voice as your interpretation ends.
Getting Down to Business
Calls tend to be focused on the business at hand. This is different than face-to-face environments, where people tend to chat about whatever before and even during meetings. The phone calls I’ve been on have tended to be short, concise, and focused purely on business-at-hand topics, which can shift rapidly (questions can fly out from anywhere at almost any time). Recommendation: Treat telephonic with the same, or better, care of preparation as you would in a face-to-face environment.
Telephonic Interpretation happens in both simultaneous and consecutive modes, but I’ve focused on the latter here. Interpreters who are thinking of venturing into the higher echelons of this market should check their confidence and skills to remain dynamic throughout the entire conversation, and be prepared for gigs to be cancelled outright or cut short. It’s cool, this brave new world of telephonic, but it’s also a challenge.
'Old Couple' picture courtesy of jantik