All around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven people to work remotely. At the same time, companies have been forced to find alternative ways of working and meeting. It’s the golden age of video conferencing, which can be seen, for example, in the way the number of users of services such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Hangouts has exploded.
As international meetings have moved online, many have encountered a new problem. How to break down language barriers in meetings or webinars so that language does not prevent participation?
Zoom interpreting feature
Many may not yet know that Zoom, a video call service provider, offers its users a real-time simultaneous interpreting feature. It’s a happy coincidence and great timing for the American company that they introduced and implemented the feature to their service at the end of 2019. Currently, Zoom is the only widely used video call service in Finland with this particular feature.
The Zoom interpreting feature is not available for Basic or Pro accounts, but it is included in Business / Enterprise accounts. The feature is easy to activate with instructions provided by Zoom. In practice, when a meeting is being created by the host, they can designate the interpreter role to agreed interpreter participants and select channels that fit their languages. All participants can take their pick from the languages available in the meeting and tune in to their preferred one instead of the speaker’s language. This is done by first muting the language of the meeting. The interpreter takes part in the meeting by listening to the original speech through their headphones and simultaneously interpreting it into the target language. Incredibly, no one even has to leave their home!
The pros and cons of Zoom interpreting
The biggest advantage of the Zoom simultaneous interpreting feature is that it is included in a service that many are already familiar with. Activating the interpreting feature and adding interpreters to a video call is incredibly easy. With Zoom, you’ll also save all the costs that would usually come with using separate remote interpreting software. Naturally, hiring professional interpreters will lead to some costs, but the benefits far outweigh the expense. Thanks to the interpreting feature, meetings can be held even under exceptional circumstances and without the need to travel!
The first downside that comes to mind is possible interference in internet connection and sound quality, which could cause problems for interpreting quality. Simultaneous interpreting requires extreme focus and high-quality audio. Any interference with connections and incoming sound quality is stressful for interpreters.
Another possible disadvantage could be that Zoom has chosen the nine languages that are available on the basis of American needs. Unfortunately, Finnish is not one of these languages, which means English to Finnish interpretation has to be listened to from, for example, the Korean channel. This may cause some confusion. It also has to be admitted that if the Zoom meeting host does not wish to become a virtual technician, it is probably a good idea to keep the number of interpreted languages to a minimum.
Zoom’s issues with data security have also raised discussion. F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer Mikko Hyppönen says that Zoom has reacted well to the highlighted issues. In his opinion, the software can be used safely for conventional corporate meetings, which means it should also be safe for webinars and seminars, for example.
The time for remote interpreting is now
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for remote interpreting. During these exceptional circumstances, both customers and interpreters have faced something quite new and can no longer ignore remote interpreting technology. Of course, the technology has been coming for a long time, but no specific platform has gained a foothold yet in remote simultaneous interpreting.
Now that the need for remote work, video calls and remote meetings has surged, it is our opinion that Zoom offers a wonderful solution for webinars, remote learning and meetings with foreign business partners. Many cancelled annual general meetings could be rescheduled in Zoom and offered with, as always, high-quality simultaneous interpreting on the side.