Translation and interpretation during the COVID-19 pandemic

When COVID-19 started spreading, we knew we were about to experience something new, something that would change the way we live and work, at least temporarily. We knew it would affect the communication needs of our clients, which would in turn affect their translation and interpretation needs, but we did not know to what extent and in what form. COVID-19 was, and is, unlike any disaster we have ever experienced before, as it has reached every corner of the earth.

The way we manage our translation projects did not change drastically, as our team of linguists are based in different countries the world and they already worked remotely. What did change was the type of documents we started receiving and their urgency. We, of course, had had to deal with tight deadlines before, but there was a significant shift during the first month of the pandemic. Clients started sending shorter documents, all related to COVID-19, that they needed translated urgently. Since the content of these documents was extremely time-sensitive and important, our team worked overtime, moved their schedules around, and even worked weekends in order to meet the needs of our clients. A delay in delivering their translations could have serious consequences during a time when everything was so uncertain and was constantly changing.

After the initial shock of the pandemic and a couple of months in lockdown, when businesses and organisations around the world were back to working at full capacity, although remotely, a new need arose. Meetings and conferences started up again, but they were now virtual. Interpretation was still required, but as in-person interpretation was no longer an option, clients started requesting remote interpretation. This was something completely new for IWORDS, as we had provided interpretation before, but it was always in person. In order to fulfil the needs of our clients, we had to adapt and learn how remote interpreting worked and what it required. We became familiar with Zoom’s newly released feature that enabled virtual simultaneous interpretation and started offering our clients the service. However, we quickly realized not all of the participants of these meetings had access to Zoom (as it is restricted in certain countries) and had to find ways to offer simultaneous interpretation without using the Zoom feature. In this case, we had to work with Microsoft Teams and Zoom at the same time; the meeting was being conducted on Microsoft Teams and we would interpret on Zoom where the English-speaking participants were.

It is clear that this pandemic has posed challenges for every industry and has forced us to learn new ways to work and interact. Luckily, technology has also been moving at lightning speed and has allowed us to continue to fulfil our clients’ changing needs and adapt to this new reality.

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