Why Over-the-Phone Interpreting?
Depending on which expert study you believe, body language accounts for up to 75% of human communication. That being the case, why would anyone choose to use over-the-phone interpreting (commonly referred to as OPI) as a preferred language service?
In-Person Interpreting vs. Remote
Professional in-person interpreting is undisputedly the most effective method of communication between parties without a shared language. The nuances of body language, facial expressions, vocal tone, etc. are most easily observed when everyone is in the same room. Additionally, it’s easier for the interpreter to ascertain whether the message is being received as intended, and to know when to intervene and say, “Excuse me, but I don’t think they understand your point,” etc.
But in-person interpreting is not always practical. It works best with advance scheduling (although iTi will provide in-person interpreters on short notice whenever possible) and when all parties are in the same location. There are many situations when some form of remote interpreting is a better choice.
Over-the-Phone Interpreting vs. Video Remote Interpreting
Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) has been on the scene for a while, and its use skyrocketed during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when working from home became the norm and many of us became intimately familiar with the joys and woes of Zoom meetings.
Like in-person interpreters, a VRI interpreter can see facial expressions and, to a certain extent, body language. It can be scheduled in advance or accessed on-demand. So, when choosing a remote interpreting service, why not just use VRI? Because it’s not always an option and not always the best choice.
OPI Interpreting for Telephone Meetings
If the conversation requiring interpreting is taking place over the phone, over-the-phone interpreting is the perfect solution. Simply use the same method you’d typically use to start a conference or three-way call and dial the phone number for your phone interpreting company. At iTi, your call will be answered by a live operator – no need to go through an automated menu – who will ask for the language needed and connect you with your telephone interpreter, typically in under 15 seconds.
One advantage to speaking with a live operator is that you may not be sure what language is needed. Some languages sound similar and may be difficult to differentiate for the untrained ear. Your operator can help you determine which language is being spoken.
Global Interpreting Services Don’t End with Business Hours
Video remote interpreting services often have specific hours when they are available. At iTi, our VRI interpreters are available for all of the languages we interpret from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, and 24-hours a day, 7 days a week for our two most commonly requested languages: Spanish and American Sign Language (ASL).
If you’re doing business in other time zones or your company has extended business hours, it may not always be possible to schedule calls and online meetings during business hours. Many companies have customer service lines that are answered around the clock and may get calls from non-English-speaking customers any time of day or night.
iTi’s OPI interpreting service is available to help with these calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in over 250 languages.
Over-the-Phone Interpreting for Call Centers
If your business has an incoming call center for sales or customer support, your callers will likely hear a message giving them the option to select a number to reach a Spanish-speaking representative. But what about the many other languages your customers may speak? You never want to lose a customer due to a language barrier.
Often, you won’t know what language the customer speaks until the call is connected and, even then, you may not recognize the language needed. In these situation, on-demand phone interpreting is invaluable. iTi’s live operators have experience in identifying languages that sound similar but are different, and can help choose the right interpreter for each call.
The same is true with outgoing calls, such as survey or political campaign calls. If you know the language needed in advance, you can connect with the iTi interpreter first, then conference in the other party. Or, if you unexpectedly find yourself speaking with someone who is not proficient in English, you can initiate the OPI session on-demand as easily as making a conference call.
Emergencies Happen When (and Where) They Happen!
There are many scenarios when an interpreter is needed quickly in the middle of the night or on a weekend. Even during business hours, a smart phone, tablet, or computer may not be available for a video interpreting session.
Here are some examples of emergency situations when an OPI interpreting service would be invaluable:
- A first responder arrives at a late-night fire, and a person speaking a language he does not recognize is gesturing toward the burning building, obviously very agitated. Is someone trapped in the building, or is the person just upset at the loss of belongings?
- A non-English speaker has become stuck in an elevator and picks up the emergency phone. She is claustrophobic and very frightened, so seconds matter.
- A high school student is badly injured at an evening sporting event and is taken to the hospital. His coach calls the parents’ number listed in the school’s records, but no one on the other end of the call speaks English.
There are countless other examples when having fast, reliable access to a professional over-the-phone interpreter is the best option.
The Need for Speed
One of the most common reasons people cite for choosing over-the-phone interpreting is the speed of connection. At iTi, our average connection time for OPI is 13 seconds. That average factors in requests for less common languages when it might take a little longer for the operator to reach an available interpreter. That means that for our most commonly requested languages, like Spanish and Portuguese, the average wait is even shorter!
In conclusion, over-the-phone interpreting is fast, convenient, affordable and the best choice in certain situations. If you’d like to hear from us to learn more about OPI or any of our other language solutions, click the link below or to see more related content check out “How to Use Over the Phone Interpreting for Better Immigration Interviews“.
Interpreters and Translators, Inc. is a full service language solutions company based in Glastonbury, Connecticut. iTi is an NMSDC-certified minority owned business.
This blog post was originally published in January 2023. It has been updated for freshness and additional information about phone translation service and other phone interpreting services.