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Few people think of the same thing when they hear or use the term “remote interpreting,” and with good reason. 

Connected PeopleI’ve spent much of my time and energy over the last two years speaking about technology’s growing influence on interpreting. As I have conversed with interpreters, educators and clients all over the world, one thing has become painfully apparent: few people think of the same thing when they hear or use the term “remote interpreting,” and with good reason. The term is bandied about to refer to a multitude of different scenarios that are as different from one another as apples and oranges.

So, what to do? First off, the meetings or interactions that make use of remote interpreting should be divided into two broad categories: face-to-face meetings and virtual meetings.

“Why?” you ask. “Why would a seasoned translator and interpreter get involved in crowdsourcing, which, according to many, is undermining the translation profession?” That’s a fair question. And here’s my answer.

Digital WorldTwo years ago, I decided to practice what I had been preaching about technology and the language services industry. I joined forces with a Silicon Valley startup called ZipDX to design and create the first integrated platform for providing remote simultaneous interpretation for teleconferences and webinars. If you attended the 2013 Annual American Translators Association Conference in San Antonio, Texas earlier this month you may have heard one interpreter’s perspective on that technology platform, which offers simultaneous interpretation services to an entirely new market segment. 

Now I’ve thrown my hat into the technology ring again, this time to focus on the polemical yet promising idea of crowdsourced translation. This month I joined the Advisory Board of Webflakes, an innovative startup company I wrote about a few months ago. Here's a link to the official press release, if you are curious.

Conference Interpreting: A Student’s Practice Book by Andrew Gillies is the kind of book any interpreter trainer would do well to have close at hand.

Conference Interpreting by Andrew GilliesWhen I began training interpreters more than a decade ago I started collecting teaching materials and different training exercises like a pack rat. I relished every chance I had to “talk shop” with other trainers to pick their brains and share my experiences and still do. Why? Because I soon learned that there was precious little available in the form of formally published training manuals with specific exercises—let alone actual language-specific material—to reinforce my efforts to teach key concepts and skills.

I find Webflakes compelling for two reasons. First, it is a harbinger of things to come. Second, Webflakes has taken crowdsourcing and based its entire business model on it, and not only for translation, but for content creation as well.

Webflakes LogoOne of the most powerful aspects of Internet connectivity is the way it facilitates communication. It empowers like-minded individuals to express their ideas, discuss them with others and build communities. Today’s bloggers write about everything from soup to nuts, from French wine to Thai food, and from South American soccer to Russian hockey.

Simplicity of use drives the adoption of new technologies. Complexity only drives away potential users. This is as true for translation and interpreting as it is for new technology. 

Wainhouse Summit 2013Earlier this month I had the chance to rub shoulders with some of the most innovative companies in the unified communications and collaboration space, also known as UCC. If you haven’t heard of UCC before, don’t be too surprised. The enterprises and innovators I met at the Wainhouse Research 2013 UC+C Summit, hadn’t really given much thought to language services either, as their video systems and collaboration platforms clearly showed (with the exception of the company I was there to represent).

Technology is permeating every nook and cranny of the language services space, with mixed results.

For those familiar with American folklore, the name John Henry will surely ring a bell. He worked as a steel driver—a laborer responsible for driving steel drill bits into solid rock with a sledgehammer to make holes for explosives used to blast rock for the construction of railroad tunnels in the late 1900s in the eastern United States. His prowess and productivity were known far and wide and became the stuff of legend.

An open conversation between interpreters and technology providers about disruptive technologies has been long overdue.

Last week I had an unprecedented opportunity to sit down with three digital disruptors who have their eyes trained on making multilingual communication, in particular interpreting, more accessible than ever before. Remote interpreting veterans, Mayel deBorniol, co-founder of Babelverse, Dan Gatti, VP of Sales at Stratus Video and, Jakob Rohn, CEO of, a newcomer to the remote interpreting space, traveled to Reston, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC, to share their visions of what remote interpreting can be.

We are living in a time of increased opportunity, competition, competence and communication.

Welcome! I’m rolling out the cyber-welcome mat to anyone interested in multilingual communication, technology or interpreter and translator training. The idea of my very own blog has been growing and maturing in my mind for more than five years now. I have toyed with the idea on numerous occasions and written many posts and articles over the years for professional publications and blogs like the ATA Chronicle, the NAJIT Blog, AIIC Communicate! and of course, the InterpretAmerica Blog, but for various reasons the time just wasn’t right to start blogging regularly.