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Face to Face Interpreting: What You Need To Know

As the world becomes increasingly globalised—whether through trading with international markets or rising tourism—overcoming language barriers has never been more important. For written messages, translators are what you need, but when you’re having a conversation, interpreters are who you should be working with.

The role of an interpreter is now more in demand than ever, but with the different types of interpretation available, it can be difficult figuring out which one you require. Face to face interpreting is perhaps the most common method, and is likely to be the first thing you think of when you picture interpreters in action. Here, we’ll explain the benefits of this style, and when it’s best applied.

Why choose face to face interpreting?

As previously mentioned, the practice of interpreting allows you to overcome language barriers across a range of situations. This may be during business meetings with a foreign client, interacting with authorities in another country, or simply when talking to someone while travelling. The NHS, for example, works closely with a network of interpreters to enable them to more effectively treat patients who don’t speak English.

The very nature of face to face interpretation is that it’s instant, and facilitates conversation between two or more languages, which makes it ideal for meetings which have a sense of urgency to them. It’s also suitable if you’re dealing with sensitive information, which is best delivered in person. This could be anything from a doctor explaining test results to a patient to a conversation between a police officer and someone in custody.

Face to face interpreters are also experts in picking up on physical nuances, which can alter the overall meaning of what is being said. It’s long been suggested that body language accounts for 60-65% of communication, so what’s being put across verbally only accounts for a maximum of 40% of the overall message. An interpreter who is physically in the room will be able to pick up on subtle nuances which can alter the meaning behind what is being said, allowing them to deliver a truly accurate translation.

However, because you will need to book an appointment with a specialist, face to face interpreting is not ideal for emergency situations, but instead best for planned appointments. You may also be responsible for covering any additional costs such as travel and accommodation, which can quickly add up, especially if your interpreter has to travel a significant distance to get to your appointment.

Can I use video instead of face to face interpreting?

Thanks to technology, you have the choice of alternative options, which allow for remote interpretation. While these are often cheaper, it’s highly dependent on your own needs. For example, if you urgently require an interpreter in an emergency and cannot wait for face to face assistance, video interpretation is your next best option, as they can respond immediately, conducting their work without having to be physically present.

Video interpreting also connects you to a much wider pool of talent. For example, you may need interpretation in a very specific dialect that isn’t widely spoken around the world, let alone in your town. In this scenario, the best interpreter for you might be based miles away, which will cost you more when it comes to securing their transportation. Similarly, you could be looking for interpretation within a highly specialised subject, such as specific legal or medical issues, where accuracy is of the highest importance. If there isn’t a local interpreter available with the specific training and knowledge you require, it may be necessary to work with someone who is based much further away, which will cost more. In these instances, video interpretation is not only cheaper, but much more convenient, and still provides the specialised services you and your business will need.

When should I use telephone interpreting?

Telephone interpreting is perhaps the most convenient option for emergencies, as you can quickly get in touch with someone at short notice, regardless of where they’re based. The flexibility of this service means it may also be your cheapest option. However, as mentioned above, verbal communication alone won’t give you 100% of someone’s meaning. As such, telephone interpreters can only offer interpretations based on what’s being said, and will be unable to draw upon facial expressions and body language.

For these reasons, telephone interpreting is only a suitable option for unexpected situations, so we recommend something more personal and accurate for sensitive topics. Get in touch with our team today to find out more about how our interpreters can help you.

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