Telephone interpreting: good for the environment

by Knockhundred Admin

There is a lot of discussion around the pros and cons of telephone interpreting and how accessing an interpreter via telephone compares with traditional face-to-face interpreting.

There is of course a lively debate about the effect of travel on the environment. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency in the States), a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. This assumes the average gasoline vehicle on the road today has a fuel economy of about 22.0 miles per gallon and drives around 11,500 miles per year. Every gallon of gasoline burned creates about 8,887 grams of CO2.

These precise sums and assumptions may be disputed, but unless an interpreter travels everywhere for every assignment by electric car, their carbon footprint is bound to be lower if they deliver their interpreting service by telephone, from home.

The fact that using a telephone interpreting service rather than a face-to-face interpreting service is better for the environment is probably incontrovertible. Will it, however, also save you money? Rather unhelpfully, the answer is yes… and no. It all depends.

Costs to have an interpreter via telephone starts from as little as £1.50 + VAT per minute. This rate is for a 2-way telephone conversation - so you and the individual with whom you are trying to communicate are sharing the same telephone line in the UK, and the interpreter is on a second line. If you use the service for 10 minutes, the cost will be £15.00 + VAT.

Supposing you contract a face-to-face interpreter for the same length of time, and supposing you were really lucky and had an interpreter based within 5 miles from your office available when you needed them. Let’s also assume that you are even more lucky and this particular interpreter only has one hour as a minimum charge (most have 2-hours, and quite a few have 3-hours as a minimum charge). The absolute minimum for a face-to-face interpreter to attend, including their travel time and mileage costs would be £50.00 + VAT. Now that’s quite a difference.

However, you can do the maths - there comes a tipping point when the telephone interpreting service becomes more expensive than having an on-site face-to-face interpreter. It is all down to practicalities. The telephone interpreting service works best for shorter, regular conversations. No need to book in advance, and it will cost you less!

For obvious reasons, many people prefer an on-site interpreter for hospital, court or factory visits - and this type of service can end up costing you less.

Our telephone interpreting service is available in over 190 languages. If you would be interested in learning more about our telephone interpreting service or our face-to-face interpreting service, do please get in touch and one of our project managers will be happy to help.