How COVID-19 Has Reshaped Translation and Interpretation

A digital playing field may actually lift corporate language barriers.

At the start of the pandemic, multinational corporations and international associations had no choice but to turn global face-to-face events into online video conferences, many having to do so literally overnight. COVID-19 changed the world irrevocably, forcing companies to seek out the translation and interpretation industry to rapidly adopt digital technology and tools to reduce the disruption of day-to-day operations. 

While frontline workers are undoubtedly the heroes of this crisis, interpreters who can transact on video have become vital to the smooth running of operations in many industries—from court hearings and medical appointments to government conferences and assisted learning. As a result, the rapid adoption of digital transformation caused by COVID-19 has proven to be a boon for many tech-savvy companies. 

While language as a service (LaaS) platforms and language service providers (LSPs) registered a decrease in demand for their services from sectors such as events and travel, certain verticals saw a surge in demand. According to a survey by CSA Research, 64% of LSPs reported an increase in demand for interpretation in the health sector, with 59% reporting a higher demand from the life sciences, medical, and pharmaceuticals sectors. The change in demand for interpretation services appears to vary highly between sectors. Companies that already provide remote or virtual interpretation services are thriving as businesses look for ways to maintain communication with staff, clients, prospects, vendors, and the general public. 

In our new normal, this is the way of the future, and an inevitable progression that has been hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic. With many companies having already extended their home office policy until late 2021 and reinforcing a strict no-travel policy, the majority of events and meetings are likely to continue in virtual and hybrid scenarios in the near future. 

For interpreters, this has resulted in a greater emphasis on online video conferences, with hybrid options becoming more commonplace as lockdown eases in some countries. As markets reopen, there will be a greater focus on tools that streamline and improve the experience in the future. Remote interpretation and participation may well lead to an increase in demand for interpretation services in the long run, because they have become more attainable, affordable, and easier to arrange, especially for smaller organizations. 

While COVID-19 may not be around forever, it will have a lasting effect on how companies operate globally on a multilingual level, requiring interpreters to facilitate communication for global businesses.

 For interpreting services to evolve and demonstrate value, translation and interpretation organizations and professionals need to be resilient, flexible, and able to meet the demands of today’s digital-first world. 

There can be no disputing that online interpretation for events, conferences, seminars, and press meetings is the way of the future. Luckily, the tools to facilitate this paradigm shift are already available, democratized to fit the needs of a globalized business world. 

Fardad Zabetian, a visionary entrepreneur, technologist, and communication disruptor, currently serves as founder and CEO of KUDO Inc., a SaaS platform that democratizes real-time language interpretation for web meetings, live conferences, and global business interactions. Read more of Fardad’s thought leadership here.