Phone vs video: which remote interpreting service is better for you?

One of the side effects of the recent turmoil has been a roaring shift of business towards the online realm. The cyberspace has provided a safe haven for many businesses, securing them with at least some level of business continuity. Interviews have become phone calls. Team meetings have turned into zoom videos. Naturally, interpreters have started to work remotely, too. But when it comes to remote interpreting, we’ve noticed our clients have some trouble choosing between phone and video remote interpreting. Which one is better? Keep on reading to find out their pros and cons, and our final verdict.

Phone Interpreting

What is it?

Over-the-phone interpreting, or simply OPI, is essentially a conference call between two parties and the interpreter. Usually, over-the-phone interpreting is done in consecutive mode. 

Pros of Phone Interpreting:

  • Availability. This type of remote interpreting is most readily available because it only requires a phone connection. In fifteen seconds, it can you can get connected to over 200 languages. How is that for breaking language barriers?
  • Price. Of course, interpreting rates depend heavily on the language combination you’re looking for. But as a general rule, phone interpreting rates are lower than video remote interpreting. 

Cons of Phone Interpreting:

  • You can’t rely on body language. In some situations, non-verbal communication can be critical for an accurate interpretation service. Apart from the tone of voice, phone interpreting can give little insight into what else is being said with posture or facial expression.  
  • Not suitable for the DFHH community. If your audience consists of people with a hearing impairment, phone interpreting is not an option.

Video Remote Interpreting 

What is it?

In video remote interpreting (VRI), the parties connect through an online platform that provides both video and audio support, so all participants can hear and see each other. 

Pros of Video Remote Interpreting:

  • You get visual support. This makes it the closest alternative to on-site interpreting. It’s particularly useful in stressful situations like medical interviews, or tough business negotiations. 
  • It suits all segments of the population. Because of the visual component, VRI is your go-to remote interpreting service when you need to communicate with a Deaf or Heard of Hearing person. 

Cons of Video Remote Interpreting:

  • Price. Mind you, compared to on-site interpreting, it’s still a significant saving. But compared to phone interpreting, it does come at a slightly higher price tag. 
  • Internet connection. VRI needs a stable high-speed internet connection. If the setting you’re in can’t guarantee it, avoid it. A bad connection is worse than no connection at all.

OPI vs VRI: The verdict

Both types of remote interpreting services come with their advantages and shortcomings. There isn’t an all-time winner. Instead, it’s the context of your meeting that should define which option to go for. 

To sum up, here is what we recommend:

Go for phone interpreting when:

  • It’s last-minute. You’re in hot haste and need a language expert within minutes? Phone interpreters are more readily available than video interpreters. 
  • You’re unsure about internet stability. Don’t risk ruining the meeting with frozen screens and sound cut-offs. If one of the attendees has a weak internet signal, go for phone interpreting. 
  • There is an established relationship between the attendees. In a medical context, it will be challenging to discuss a first doctor-patient meeting via phone. In that case, VRI would be a better choice. However, once the is an established relationship, switching to OPI will save time and money.

Go for video remote interpreting when:

  • You need a sign language interpreter. Make sure to ask in advance if anyone attending has a hearing impairment.
  • The gist is not in the words. First medical appointments, delivering a tough diagnosis, a heated business negotiation… Everyone will benefit if they see each other rather than just hear each other.
  • You can ensure support from IT. For important meetings, it would be good to make some VRI tests beforehand and have IT back up on-site if anything goes south.