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The Continuing Importance of Face-to-Face Interpreting

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Demand for video interpreting services has increased as a result of the enforced social distancing of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this circumstantial change shouldn’t mean face-to-face interpreting is disregarded altogether.

Between March and July 2020, half of the 102 million GP appointments that took place in England were conducted via video or phone call, according to figures from NHS Digital. The data shows that almost two-thirds of patients were happy to receive a consultation in this way.

Interpreters will no doubt have been involved in some of these appointments, but it’s important to remember that face-to-face interpreting continues to be the most effective method of interpreting in many settings.

The Benefits of Face-to-Face Interpreting

Such is the benefit of face-to-face communication that NHS England wrote to all of its GP practices in September, emphasising that they should be offering in-person appointments when they are needed, particularly as the winter approaches.

But what exactly is it that often makes face-to-face interpreting the preferential option?

The Best Method for Sensitive Communication

Sometimes, even in the midst of a pandemic, a personal connection is vital. Face-to-face interpreting can be the best choice for delivering sensitive information, such as in a medical or police setting, or when working with children.

In-person interpreting can benefit the patient experience among the older generation in particular, who may not be as comfortable or confident using video communication services.

The Body Language Advantage

Face-to-face interpreting allows body language and other physical nuances to be seen in the moment alongside speech, which can help to convey tone, humour and other subtleties, which may otherwise be lost if there’s a language or cultural barrier.

Instant Understanding

With face-to-face interpreting, there’s no time delay, as can inevitably sometimes be the case when using video software for interpreting.

This lack of delay can help to guarantee greater accuracy and comprehension, therefore enabling more effective communication.

Improves Accessibility for Hard-of-Hearing Individuals

The real-time advantage of face-to-face interpreting makes it the best option for interpreting information for hard-of-hearing individuals.

One example of this being put to effective use during the pandemic has been the presence of a sign language interpreter at Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s daily coronavirus briefings, allowing up-to-date essential information to be delivered to everyone at the same time.

Which Type of Interpreting Should I Choose?

Throughout much of 2020, virtual interpreting has been seen as the safer option, but as social interaction picks up, there is the option of interpreting in-person while wearing a face mask with a clear plastic insert so the mouth can still be seen.

Telephone interpreting can be an effective option when speed needs to be a key factor, such as in an emergency medical situation, but video will always be a greater visual option, allowing at least some body language to be seen.

This has made video interpreting an effective solution for more minor medical appointments or for vulnerable patients for whom a face-to-face consultation would have posed a risk.

Although face-to-face interpreting may have been the ‘old normal’ in the business conference world, it did often incur travel and accommodation expenses, which organisations may want to reduce going forward. This means we could potentially see virtual interpreting becoming the ‘new normal’ in a post-COVID world.

Whatever your situation, Language Connect’s experienced team are able to continually assess service requirements and advise whether virtual or face-to-face interpreting would be more appropriate for your specific interpreting needs. Contact us today to find out more.



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