Telephone interpreting – how does it work?

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Telephone interpreting - how does it work?

There are often situations in life where you need someone’s help urgently. Those times where something simply can’t wait until tomorrow, where you need to act now. Although when we think of an interpreter, we usually imagine a linguist travelling all over the country in their car or by train, telephone interpreting is becoming increasingly popular, for those emergency situations.

The police regularly use consecutive face-to-face interpreters, when conducting interviews, recording witness statements and so on. However, there are also occasions when the police have to work with an interviewer immediately and in those situations, they may use a telephone interpreting service. This could be where someone has been apprehended and needs to be told what is happening, for example.

There are also often situations where private companies need to use a telephone interpreting service too. Sometimes there may be some kind of conflict in the workplace and in those situations, an employer may wish to hold a discussion or disciplinary meeting immediately.

Or perhaps a UK based person has a house in Spain, which they are trying to sell and they need to clarify some points with an estate agent? They may have already had documents translated, but need to explain something, or need something explained to them. In all these scenarios, people need quick, consecutive, interpreting, but on the phone. So how does it work?

Imagine three people standing in a row, let’s call them A, B and C. A and C speak different languages and want to talk to each other, but cannot. B is in the middle and speaks both languages, so B can relay messages back and forth, between A and C. It doesn’t matter where A, B and C are, as long as A and C both have telephones. And that’s what makes the service so popular! There is no need to wait – it’s instant and straightforward.

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