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Advantages of Telephone Interpreting

Advantages of Telephone Interpreting

One of the first points cited in favor of telephone interpreting is cost savings, though it is in fact not always cheaper than on-site interpreting. Other advantages include:


  • Around-the-clock availability – medical emergencies and crimes do not always happen during business hours. Interpreters can be connected to the interlocutors quickly, preventing long waits for patients in emergency rooms or weekend jail stays for arrestees (Valentine, 1994; Mintz, 1998; Gracia-García, 2002).


  • Wider range of languages available – many telephone interpreting services boast that they can provide interpreting in dozens of languages at the press of a button, and for some languages of limited diffusion it may be difficult to find a qualified interpreter within hundreds of miles (Hewitt, 1995; Gracia-García, 2002).


  • Professionalization of interpreters – interpreters who do not live in a market where they can obtain full-time work must supplement their income by doing other kinds of work, which prevents them from developing and maintaining their skills and discourages them from making a firm commitment to the profession. Telephone interpreting provides an opportunity for interpreters, especially those in languages of limited diffusion, to devote themselves full-time to this profession (Heh & Qian, 1997; Hewitt, 2000).


  • Flexibility of working hours and location – interpreters can choose to work part-time if they desire, and can live in a location that may be desirable for climate, cost of living, or proximity to family members but is not necessarily a place where a lot of on-site interpreting assignments are available (Heh & Qian, 1997).


  • Confidentiality and impartiality – in situations that might be embarrassing to the parties, such as a medical examination or a police interrogation (especially in tight-knit ethnic communities), a remote interpreter can provide the communication link without being seen as an intruder (Hewitt, 1995; Wadensjö, 1999). The gender of the interpreter and the patient might be a significant factor in a medical evaluation, but matters much less over the telephone.


  • Professional distance – when the interpreter is not in the same room as the speakers, it may be easier to concentrate on the interpreting task and not become emotionally involved in what may be a traumatic and even physically shocking situation, as in the case of a medical emergency (Gracia-García, 2002). Also, the interpreter may be better able to focus on the parties’ speech exclusively, without being distracted by visual input (Mintz, 1998).