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Translation Services

Translation Services

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Telephone Interpreting

Telephone Interpreting Questions and Answers

Telephone interpreting is a fairly recent phenomenon and, as such, you may have many questions regarding the service if you have not used it before.

The following Questions and Answers have been compiled to help give you some direction:

What does telephone interpreting involve?

Telephone interpreting involves communication via a telephone between individuals who do not share the same language. The telephone interpreter helps to overcome this communication barrier by interpreting on a consecutive level between the respective participants.

What are the benefits of telephone interpreting?

Telephone interpreting can save a considerable amount of money. Not only does it cut out travel time and expenses for numerous parties, but an interpreter’s time is often cheaper over the telephone. Other benefits include:

  • In the case of sensitive discussions, some individuals would rather that the third person (i.e. the interpreter) were not physically present (this may particularly be the case for individuals from particular religious or cultural backgrounds)
  • If a fully qualified interpreter is not available face to face, then a qualified telephone interpreter is likely to be the best option
  • Telephone interpreters can be engaged almost instantly to assist in matters of emergency

What are the drawbacks of telephone interpreting?

It is estimated that over 70% of language conveyed is body language. As such, telephone interpreting may inhibit some elements of natural communication. Clinical situations are an example of occasions in which telephone interpreting is likely to be less effective – particularly if the setting is therapeutic.

It may sometimes be difficult for a telephone interpreter to interpret effectively between parties – particularly if the line is occasionally bad, or if the non verbal cues of a speaker help to further convey the intended meaning of their speech. However, it should be noted that a qualified telephone interpreter is trained to pick up on non verbal language – such as intonation within the voice, emphasis, breathing and tone of voice. For this reason, it is preferable to use fully qualified telephone interpreters for telephone interpreting exercises as opposed to non qualified telephone interpreters, as the latter may flounder in the absence of non verbal cues.

Telephone interpreting should most certainly be avoided if children or individuals who are hard of hearing are involved in the conversation. Face to face interpreting should be given preference (if possible) in such situations.

Some individuals using the telephone interpreting service may only feel confident in respect to the interpreting process if the interpreter is physically present.


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