The Growing Popularity of Virtual Remote Interpreting (VRI)

Believe it or not, “[o]ne of the first experiments with remote interpreting took place in 1976 when the UNESCO organized its General Assembly in Nairobi. The interpreters, however, were asked to work from Paris, which was connected to the capital city of [Kenya] through a satellite connection [that] provided an audio-video connection quality equal to that of a standard TV broadcast.”1 Since those early days, virtual remote interpreting (VRI) has certainly come a long way. Today, in fact, due to advances in technology, a rise in globalization — and, along with it, global digitalization — VRI is accessible across platforms and used across industries.

In recent years, VRI has grown in popularity. In fact, a 2018 survey financed by the European Commission compared “remote interpreting 一 both video (VRI) and telephonic (OPI ) 一 with onsite interpreting from a variety of perspectives.”2 The survey focused on language services providers (LSPs) and their end clients in Italy, Spain, and the UK, and the findings speak for themselves.

Data Source: Slator3 (original source, Shift Project4)

But VRI isn’t just growing in popularity in Europe. Here, in the United States, several industries are now turning to VRI. In fact, according to Statista, in 2012 the market size for remote interpreting5 rang in at roughly USD 660 million. By 2019, this jumped to USD 1.2 billion. And, since the onset (and continuation) of COVID-19, the market size for VRI will likely continue to increase. To put this into clearer perspective, one need only look at Zoom. As one of the most popular online platforms that offers a virtual interpreting function, Zoom saw revenues skyrocket 169 percent6 since the beginning of 2020. Whether because of safety concerns during the latest pandemic, the ease of use and considerable cost savings, or increased language and interpreter availability, those in need of interpreting are turning toward VRI.

The Many Benefits to Investing in VRI

In-person interpreting, although ideal in many situations, often requires complex interpreter scheduling and travel arrangements, along with associated costs. Depending on the location that the in-person interpreter is needed, limited language availability might also pose a problem. As the United States — and the world — becomes more linguistically and culturally diverse, VRI allows users to connect to a much larger pool of international interpreters with a wide range of subject matter expertise. And, with no hourly “minimum” and no travel or accommodation expenses, the cost savings alone often places VRI as a top choice for those in need of interpreting services.

The measurable benefits to investing in VRI are manifold. For unplanned events or emergency situations alone, interpreters can be reached within seconds using VRI technology. VRI’s flexibility across devices (as well as its simplified integration with several apps) is another great advantage. Whether one (or several) people cannot be present in the same location (or at the same time), VRI seamlessly connects all interested parties via iPhones, iPads, desktops, and laptops. Another game changer is VRI’s ability to work with almost all virtual platforms be that Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business or any other. Essentially all that is required includes a computer or iOS device and an internal or external web camera.

How VRI Supports A Growing Number of Industries

Healthcare and Insurance

Emergency rooms across the United States receive nearly 136 million patient visits per year.7 If we consider that approximately 8 percent of the total US population identifies as limited-English proficient (LEP),8 this translates to almost 27 million annual ER visits from the nation’s LEP patient population. Healthcare workers often need to work swiftly to meet the needs of their patients, but when a language barrier interrupts communication, problems can quickly escalate. By investing in VRI solutions, however, patients with LEP can receive the support they need from completing intake documents to communicating clearly with medical personnel. And, when hospitals invest in VRI, they have the potential to significantly reduce lengths of stay (LOS) and decrease the number of 30-day readmissions.9 These measured, tangible results ultimately lead to improved patient satisfaction and improved patient outcomes.

Education

In the state of California alone, 21 percent of students identify as English learners (ELs). In fact, ELs account for roughly 10 percent of all public school students in the United States.10 VRI can be especially beneficial for schools located in rural areas that either lack the required number of professional interpreters or require support for rare languages. Whether for educational lessons, parent-teacher meetings, or school events, VRI has become an essential tool to ensure all EL students receive equal access to education. VRI also enables the limited-English proficient (LEP) parent population to receive all necessary information in a language they understand.

Banking and Finance

As the US population continues to grow, customer support lines and call centers are now serving a growing number of LEP customers. For this very reason, VRI is becoming a popular service for the banking and financial sectors. VRI helps these institutions expand their reach by communicating in their customers’ preferred languages. Professional interpreters with financial expertise adhere to strict confidentiality mandates and offer an intimate understanding of compliance and data security regulations across countries. And, since the world of finance is well known for its complex, industry-specific vocabulary, interpreters with financial expertise can greatly improve the customer experience. From business loans to applying for a mortgage, customers require clear, effective, unambiguous communication.

Business

The many benefits of VRI have certainly not been lost to the business world. With many events now serving the globe, VRI is ideal for remote conferences (eConferences), facilitating multilingual communication for both speakers and attendees. When compared to in-person conference interpreting services, VRI offers greater flexibility, less administrative burdens, and reduced overall costs without compromising the quality of the interpreting or the integrity of the event.

CommGap — Bespoke VRI Solutions

Subject Matter Experts

It goes without saying that linguists with subject matter expertise are key to ensuring a smooth, coherent interpretation experience for all. At CommGap, our interpreters work in specialty fields with the relevant experience necessary to meet — and exceed — your expectations. They have undergone extensive training and participate in continued upskilling that reach far and beyond industry standards.

Cultural Competence

As the world becomes increasingly more global, interpreters with cultural competence offer much more than linguistic and industry-specific expertise. Since culturally competent interpreters are intimately familiar with the customs and traditions of a specific geographical location, they help to accurately convey a speaker’s meaning while also paying particular attention to the speaker’s nonverbal cues. That is why CommGap offers extensive and ongoing cultural sensitivity training to its globally positioned full-time employees and contracted interpreters.

Customized Solutions

At CommGap, we know every client is unique. That is why we focus on flexibility and create intelligent solutions tailored to your specific needs. As an ISO 17100:2015-certified company, CommGap offers 24/7/365 language services with an easy-to-use, highly secure web portal. And, with CommGap ConnectⓇ, our proprietary app, our clients can reach video or audio interpreters within seconds. Whether for scheduled, frequent, or last-minute interpreting needs, audio, video, or both, CommGap has you covered.


At CommGap, we offer VRI services in over 200 languages along with a team of highly skilled and vetted linguists specialized across industries. For over 20 years, CommGap has been providing our clients in the healthcare, education, legal, financial, and business sectors with bespoke language solutions  — and our VRI solutions are certainly no exception. By partnering with CommGap for your virtual remote interpreting needs, we’ll help you eliminate unnecessary backlogs and improve efficiency.

 

Leverage your existing resources. Focus on your core competencies. Partner with CommGap today.


REFERENCES

1 Ziegler, Klaus, and Sebastiano Gigliobianco. “Present? Remote? Remotely Present! New Technological Approaches to Remote Simultaneous Conference Interpreting.” Zenodo, 21 Nov. 2018, https://zenodo.org/record/1493299#.YXc1rBrMKUk.

2, 3 Features ·by Esther BondOn January 15, et al. “Remote Interpretation Survey Examines Demand, Pricing, and Buyer Behaviour.” Slator, 15 Jan. 2019, https://slator.com/remote-interpretation-survey-examines-demand-pricing-and-buyer-behaviour/.

4 “Remote Interpreting Services: Future or Present? Results of a Market Survey in Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.” SHIFT, 17 Apr. 2018, https://www.shiftinorality.eu/en/resources/2018/04/17/remote-interpreting-services-future-or-present-results-market-survey-italy.

5 Published by Statista Research Department, and Nov 4. “U.S. over-the-Phone & Video Interpreting Market Size 2019.” Statista, 4 Nov. 2020, https://www.statista.com/statistics/950008/over-the-phone-interpreting-market-size-united-states/.

6 Iyengar, Rishi. “Zoom’s Revenue Soars 169% as People Flock to Service during Pandemic.” CNN, Cable News Network, 2 June 2020, https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/02/tech/zoom-earnings-coronavirus/index.html.

7 “Emergency Room Visit Statistics: The Emergency Center: ER.” The Emergency Center, 22 Oct. 2021, https://www.theemergencycenter.com/emergency-room-visit/.

8 Dews, Fred. “Six Questions about the Limited English Proficient (LEP) Workforce.” Brookings, Brookings, 29 July 2016, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brookings-now/2014/09/24/six-questions-about-the-limited-english-proficient-lep-workforce/.

9 Lindholm, Mary, et al. “Professional Language Interpretation and Inpatient Length of Stay and Readmission Rates.” Journal of General Internal Medicine, Springer-Verlag, Oct. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3445680/.

10 Bialik, Kristen, et al. “6 Facts about English Language Learners in U.S. Public Schools.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 30 May 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/25/6-facts-about-english-language-learners-in-u-s-public-schools/.