Did you know that the UK is the second largest market for interpreting services in the world? Home to international businesses, global airports, major conferences and a multicultural population, the services of interpreters are always in demand.
If your organisation deals with people who do not speak English as a first language, you might be considering using interpreting services. Which approach is right for you, and when might you need to use an interpreter?
Your options for interpreting services
If you are working with people who do not speak fluent English, you have a handful of options for communicating with them:
- Friends, family or bilingual staff
You might be able to communicate with an individual through their personal contacts who do speak English, or by using the services of bilingual member of staff. Remember, however, that these people will not be trained as interpreters and, in some scenarios, it would be inappropriate to ask them to interpret.
- Free online translation services
Microsoft and Google both offer written translation services you can use online. You type what you want to say and show this to your interlocutor. While written translation tools are continually improving, this approach tends to be slow, translations are not always reliable and no record of your conversation is collected. It is also not appropriate for more sensitive or complex topics which require extensive discussions. It can also be challenging if you don’t have a keyboard that lets you type in non-Latin alphabets.
- Digital interpretation services
Apps like Speechly allow you to hold a one-to-one conversation with an individual in 26 global languages. Speechly instantaneously converts voice audio in your language to text, translates this into the target language, then produces an audio file of the translation. This allows you to hold longer and more complex conversations that feel natural. Speechly also records the conversation for later reference and provides a transcript of the discussion which can be verified if required.
- Telephone and in-person interpretation
This is the traditional interpretation method and remains one of the most widely used. Professional interpreters can either be telephoned or sit in the room with you and translate in real time. Professional interpreters understand the nuances of both languages, follow industry standards and, while fairly expensive, provide clarity and confidence for both parties.
Learn more: What does interpretation really cost?
Common scenarios where interpreting services are used
Here are some of the most common situations where organisations choose to use the services of an interpreter:
Business, academic or intergovernmental conferences all rely heavily on the use of interpreters. The classic case is of simultaneous interpretation, where the interpreter translates everything that a conference speaker says in real time. This is then communicated to listeners of different languages via a headset. Conference interpreters can also be used when walking around exhibition halls or conducting meetings with other businesses and partner organisations.
- Business meetings
One of the most common uses of interpreters is in international business meetings. The interpreter can support your sales process or assist in planning multi-stakeholder projects collaboratively.
- Healthcare and medical appointments
Interpretation services are extremely helpful in a healthcare setting. Both the doctor and the patient need to ensure that symptoms are well explained so that illnesses can be diagnosed properly, and the correct treatment given.
- COVID-19 vaccination centres
Millions of people are being invited to vaccination centres where they must give their consent to receive a vaccine and be allowed to ask any questions they have about side effects. Interpreting is also needed for medical staff to find out if the individual has any allergies or medical issues. If patients cannot speak fluent English, their understanding of the vaccine may be limited which could put them at risk.
- Border force and immigration
Border and immigration authorities frequently use interpretation services to communicate with international travellers, migrants and asylum seekers. Interpreters can help resolve confusion around visas, ensure that the individual has the correct paperwork or support official interviews.
- Police interviews
Interpreters play a vital role in supporting the police when interviewing witnesses, victims and suspects if they do not speak English. Interpreters may also provide support in court cases too.
- Journalism and academic research
When journalists or academic researchers need to conduct interviews with individuals who do not speak English, an interpreter enables them to elicit information that may be vital for their story or study.
Education systems often rely on interpreters, be that with with international students at universities, professional training course or in multicultural communities where English is not so widely spoken. For example, interpreters may be used during parents’ evenings when a teacher needs to talk to parents who do not speak English.
- Mass transit
There are a variety of transit and transport situations where interpreters are extremely valuable. Whether it is directing passengers around an airport, supporting lost customers at an information desk, or communicating with sports fans who are travelling to a major event.
- Social services
Being able to communicate and build trust with clients is invaluable for social workers. Interpretation services allow social workers to speak directly with an individual without needing family or community members in the room to translate for them.
More interpretation scenarios: Browse our industry pages.
Speechly supports your interpretation needs
Speechly is currently being used by a variety of UK public and private sector organisations in many of the scenarios described above. The easy-to-use app allows your frontline staff to communicate directly with clients, customers and business partners in 26 global languages, making it easier to deliver services while costing significantly less than traditional interpretation.