Telephone interpreting

What happens when a Polish patient enters an emergency room in Spain? Chances are that none of the professionals working there can assist Poles in their native language. The patient is also quite likely to have poor language skills and he or she may have major problems in even explaining what the emergency is. This deadlock can be effectively and immediately solved using telephone interpreting.

What is telephone interpreting?

Telephone interpreting is an interpreting discipline that can be performed in diverse contexts. The basic premise, though, is the presence of two speakers who are unable to properly communicate with one another due to a language barrier. Instead of requesting the physical presence of an interpreter in a certain place, the speakers make use of the interpreter’s services through a telecommunications system. These situations may occur in hospitals, hotels or police stations, where both speakers are face to face, or in other contexts where two speakers contact each other through a telematic communication device, such as during a phone call to the emergency number.

Who is telephone interpreting designed for?

In the public sphere, this service is provided by a public institution whose aim is to help foreigners requiring assistance to carry out any administrative formality or to use a basic service. For instance, this service has been guaranteed in Aragón (Spain) since 2010 in several health and educational centers, as well as in social and employment institutions. In the private sphere, however, companies and private individuals are the main users. Private individuals request this service when carrying out procedures abroad or even when they are simply travelling. As for companies, the service aims to strengthen business relations abroad, so important in the current age of globalization.

Who performs this service?

Professional interpreters trained in the field and having extensive experience. Telephone interpreting offers a great advantage for clients, since it can be requested without notice. However, this same feature demands that the interpreter must always be ready to perform a great service, no matter when. The interpreter must be able to take part in the situation without knowing the circumstance beforehand, which is why only true professionals can be entrusted to carry it out.

What are the advantages of telephone interpreting?

The communication will be more effective, as it is provided by a trained and experienced professional. Thus, any loss of information is avoided, as well as any potential misunderstandings. Furthermore, since the interpreter doesn’t need to be present in order to perform the service, it may be immediately requested, whenever you need it. As for public institutions, this service supports the integration of social minorities when they need it the most.

How does it work?

To ensure a good service, it is essential to have a good connection between the speakers and the interpreter. Ideally both speakers will be individually connected with the interpreter, without sharing a same headset.

In conclusion, telephone interpreting is an intelligent solution for situations where communication must be prompt, but in which a language barrier exists. The advantages are obvious: celerity, professionalism and effectiveness. The required resources are few. The next time you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t hesitate: hire a professional who you can really rely on.

About Antonio Leal Fernández

Graduate degree in Translation and Interpretation from Universidade de Vigo (2013). Translator and proofreader in the German and English to Spanish combinations.

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