Over-the-Phone Interpretation vs In-Person: Which is Best for You?
May 23, 2023
6 min read
There are an infinite number of reasons why you might need an interpreter. It may be for business or for your personal life. Your company may be localizing into Bangkok, or your Latvian great uncle passed away, and it’s a legal matter because you’re in his will. Either way, if you don’t speak Thai or Latvian, you’ll need an interpreter.
So, the answer is simple: whatever is the best fit for your situation. The real question is, how do you assess your situation?
At LinguaLinx, as a Language Services Provider (LSP), we frequently come across clients who need our advice to answer this question and our help to make it happen.
Let’s take a look at the factors we’d review in order to make the decision. By the end of this article, you should know what an LSP should ask to arrive at the best solution for you.
What's the Target Language?
Is the language rare? Is there likely to be an in-person interpreter who can attend the meeting between you and the other party? If you’re talking to someone from Peru who only speaks Quechua, and the conversation is taking place in the U.S., then the chances of finding an interpreter who can be there in person are highly unlikely.
On the other hand, if that same person also speaks Spanish, then you should be able to get an interpreter who can attend in person. Of course, all of the other circumstances have to warrant it. Maybe you want to impress this person by showing respect for their culture, so only a Quecha interpreter will cut it.
What's the Location?
Let's say you’re speaking with government officials in Berlin about expanding your business into Germany, but you don’t speak an ounce of German. Are you far enough down the line where the investment to travel to Berlin is justified, so you can show commitment and sit in the same room? If so, with English being such a common international language, an in-person interpreter wouldn’t be hard to find in the German capital, so it’s probably the way to go.
But maybe you’re still in an early exploratory phase, and it’s just a phone call that’s needed. Obviously, OPI would be a better solution. If both parties aren’t in the same room, you definitely don’t need an interpreter there.
What's the Conversation About?
When dealing with sensitive topics, it's crucial to consider the comfort and privacy of all parties involved. Whether it's discussing a traumatic experience or sharing confidential information, having an in-person interpreter may not be the best option. OPI allows for anonymity and reduces the risk of information being leaked to others who may be in the same physical space.
Additionally, offering the option of a male or female interpreter can also make the situation more comfortable for the other party, especially if cultural or personal considerations come into play.
Ultimately, the goal is to facilitate clear communication while also respecting the privacy and comfort of those involved.
How Soon Do You Need Interpreting?
If you need an interpreter NOW, then even if the language is a common one, you might not be able to wait around for an in-person interpreter. What if you are with your elderly grandmother, who only speaks Italian, and she’s had a fall and you’re rushing her to the hospital? Even if an in-person interpreter can be there in the next two hours, this just isn’t fast enough.
However, if you have an important business meeting with a Japanese client that’s six weeks away, we’d suggest getting a Japanese interpreter to be in the room with you. You’ve got plenty of time to get that booked in.
How Many People Are Involved?
If you're dealing with a large delegation, having an in-person interpreter may be the best option. When there are several people in the room, it can be difficult to navigate the conversation over the phone. An interpreter who is physically present can pick up on nonverbal cues and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Additionally, having an interpreter in the room can help to establish a sense of respect and professionalism. It shows that you value the client's time and that you're willing to make an effort to communicate effectively. Of course, this option may come with a higher price tag, so it's important to consider your budget as well.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to use an in-person interpreter or OPI services will depend on a variety of factors, but by weighing all of your options, you can find the best solution for your needs.
What's Your Budget?
When considering whether to pay for over-the-phone interpretation services or hiring an in-person interpreter, budget is an important factor to take into account. While having an interpreter physically present can show respect and professionalism, it may not always be necessary or cost-effective.
In-person interpretation can involve additional expenses, such as travel and accommodation for the interpreter, which can quickly add up. On the other hand, OPI services tend to cost less as there are no additional expenses incurred by the interpreter.
However, it's important to remember that the decision should be based on the specific needs of the situation and not solely on cost. Finding the right balance between effective communication and budget is key.
Are There Any Other Considerations?
There are times when in-person interpretation isn’t possible for any of the reasons we’ve already mentioned, but OPI isn’t practical either. However, the need for interpretation hasn’t disappeared, so maybe you need to think about another option.
What kind of situation are we talking about here? What if the person you’re trying to talk to is deaf or hard of hearing? This is where you need to have an LSP who is prepared for all situations. This situation would require Video Remote Interpretation (VRI), where the interpreter not only knows both native and target languages but appropriate sign language too.
Weighing it All Up
There are a lot of variables and no single answer. The right answer is whatever is going to work for the situation as a whole – taking into account the parties involved, their locations, their languages, the environment of the meeting, the subject matter, the immediacy, and the budget.
The combination of these elements that leads to the most effective form of communication will give you your OPI or in-person interpretation answer.
Get a Quote for Your Interpreting Needs
If you need interpretation services, but aren’t sure whether you need OPI or in-person, we’d love to sit down and talk with you about it.
With LinguaLinx, you won't ever have to worry about your message getting lost as it’s translated. You know you're in good hands with our ISO 17100 compliance, twenty years of professional translation experience, and the organizations whose trust we've earned.