Demand for Interpreting Grows Despite Uncertainty — Here’s How Companies Respond

SlatorCon Remote March 2022 - Interpreting Demand

Hardly any part of the global language market was as hard hit during Covid as in-person interpreting. As international travel restrictions ease up, language service providers (LSPs) — particularly those focused on interpreting — have adapted to enable international events to go on, both on site and online.

Speakers at the recent SlatorCon Remote Interprefy panel represented different facets of the many moving pieces that need to come together to pull off multilingual meetings, conferences, and trade shows. Slator Commercial Director, Andrew Smart, moderated the panel.

Richard Roocroft, Global Head of Strategic Alliances at Interprefy, Junichi Hayashi, President of Simul International, and Marco Cailao, Regional General Manager at Encore Event Technologies Asia, agreed that technology has been a necessity in retaining business during the pandemic.

Hayashi explained that in spring 2020, Japanese LSP, Simul International, saw demand for interpretation plummet to about 20% of its normal volume. Since then, demand for interpreting at smaller meetings has recovered to approximately 70%. Because major conferences and congresses (e.g., G7, G20) still cannot resume in person, they take place virtually.

“There are no inbound clients for us to accommodate face-to-face meetings and, therefore, they are all conducted online in situations where there are restrictions on overseas travel,” Hayashi said.

Switzerland-based interpretation tech company, Interprefy, currently has 60 integrations on different platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, Webex, and Zoom. The company has its own proprietary multilingual conferencing technology. It outsources all its talent through a partner network, most recently providing interpretation in five languages for a panel discussion in the metaverse.

Interprefy’s Roocroft pointed out, “What has really happened for the past couple of years is the accelerated adoption, not just of remote interpretation, but the boom of all of these events and event technologies that are now available.” He added that many clients now expect interpreting services to be available 24 hours a day.

Of course, the ever-changing restrictions related to international travel contribute to the continuing traction of virtual events.

Encore Event Technologies Asia — the Apac branch of Encore, which organizes 1.7 million events annually — provides digital services and event technology. Its clients are primarily associations and corporate event planners, and the company typically engages LSPs for interpreting as needed.

After a significant drop-off in business due to Covid, Encore is now in a recovery phase, thanks in part to its hybrid event solution that has become more popular since 2021.

“Right now, in-person events will probably be more and more frequent; but hybrid events will always be here to stay because event planners want a backup,” Cailao explained. He noted that for in-person events, “the biggest challenge on a client’s mind is maintaining all the safety protocols involved in holding an event.”

Hayashi said that, for Simul International, an increased demand for on-site interpreting will depend on the number of new infections not only in Japan, but also in other countries. So far, the relaxation of regulations has yet to impact the mix of requested language pairs, as Japanese–English jobs still account for 90% of the company’s interpretation work.

Cailao has observed a similar trend in the Asian market, with Mandarin–English being the most requested language pair, followed by Korean–English.

Looking ahead, all three speakers shared a positive outlook for steady business growth, and a return to normalcy in the events industry, through a combination of new technology and strong partner networks.

“I am a big believer that the technology that evolved over the past few years is going to play a pivotal part in it,” Roocroft said. “Because of all the restrictions and uncertainty, yes, 50%, 75% of what you previously had may return — but let’s also have a vision that we need to cater to a much wider audience than we could ever have tapped into by taking advantage of the tools available.”