RSI is here to stay: Interview with Uroš Peterc
Remote simultaneous interpretation is here to stay. Compared to the pre-pandemic world, independent market research company CSA Research now estimates a 14% growth in remote interpreting, while the language industry overall is also expected to expand.
So the bigger question is not whether RSI will be here in the future but how. What shape will it take? In what areas of life will RSI help us to communicate better? What can event organizers, interpreters, and participants expect from the world of interpretation?
To discuss this and more, we sat down with Uroš Peterc, VP of RSI & Chief Interpreter at Interactio.
What interpreting trends will be prevalent in the interpreter’s community in 2021-2022?
RSI will definitely be the main trend in the coming years, with much more remote participation from all sides – participants, speakers, and interpreters. Over the years, we got so used to remote participation that even as we return to the “old normal” in a post-pandemic world, it’s hard to imagine the world with in-presence or physical on-site events only. In my opinion, hybrid meetings are going to be the main focus.
If we look at this question at a personal level, we see that many interactions have moved online in the past two years. Without a doubt, RSI is the current trend. As a community, we interpreters expected that sooner or later we’ll transition to remote interpretation but never thought it would be so drastic. When it became impossible to interpret on-site and in-person, we had to turn to RSI and allow for people to get used to remote spaces. We definitely transitioned the hard way, but the fantastic progress we made in one year would have taken 5-7 years otherwise.
How do you see the role of RSI in 5 years from now?
There are many factors at play here. But if the Internet connections keep improving and video-conferencing tools become even more advanced, RSI will keep leading the interpretation industry in terms of growth. In a few years, we’ll understand what types of meetings are best suited for RSI and which ones simply are not. This is currently quite a dynamic area of discussion.
Also, I’d expect RSI to become more and more technologically advanced for participants and interpreters alike. Speech recognition, various hybrid tools in the interpretation console, improved communication between boothmates. Various other features that are perhaps at the exploratory stage presently will become much more refined and intuitive. But even with all these technical enhancements, the human factor is going to stay the same – AI won’t replace high-quality human interpretation anytime soon.
How can RSI providers help interpreters preserve their well-being and perform at their best when using soft consoles?
A million-dollar question! Definitely sound quality, image quality, and with that goes reliability, quality of connection, and all the rest. One of the main issues in the industry that is being recognized now is not so much the “Should I use this headset?” or “Should I use that support app?” You can always rely on the interpreter for being best equipped to do their job. The biggest challenge has become managing remote participants because we don’t have control over how they are connected, or what microphones and cameras they use. This is where most of the problems arise.
In the beginning, it was all about bandwidth, ISO compliance of headsets, etc. Now, all of that is more or less a given and expected from RSI providers rather than questioned. Major advances have been made in platform ISO compliance, and some of the testing results are already extremely positive. The main variable now is the participant on the other end who may or may not be using proper equipment.
When you’re working in person in a conference room, you’re in a controlled environment: all the microphones are the same, there’s a certain discipline to how you speak and use the equipment. In a remote setting, every participant has a different setup, connection, laptop, and understanding of what speaking into a microphone is. There is no way of improving that quality systemically with a mere technical solution; it is a matter of experience.
As the world is massively transitioning to online and hybrid conferences, the overall quality from the participant side will improve. Slowly but surely, there’ll be a clear notion of what is meeting etiquette, of what is acceptable and what is not for all meetings stakeholders – moderators, interpreters, participants. Technology and awareness will go hand-in-hand: equipment usage can only improve as people get more experienced and comfortable with remote spaces.
Can you comment on the varying attitudes of interpreters toward RSI?
To some extent, it’s a matter of taste and personality. Working in RSI is a reality, and it’s no different from any other modes of interpreting – be it consecutive, whispering, or simultaneous. It’s still interpreting in its essence. There are always preferences: some people love RSI, some people don’t. But in general, there’s an increased acceptance and understanding of the need for it. If we talk about the fully-fledged RSI, where each interpreter is at their own location, their interaction is difficult. This type will always be cognitively very challenging because there are so many variables involved. There is also the question of auditive health, which requires serious research.
In general terms, however, RSI has become much more accepted than it was 3-4 years ago. While in the past, RSI was looked upon as the end of the profession, during COVID times, RSI became the savior and extension of the interpreter’s dedication and ability to step up in challenging times. Now, it has simply become a part of the profession.
I think remote simultaneous interpreting is going to grow in the future, especially as large institutional organizations and corporate companies recognize its value. Current generations see RSI as something new – the upcoming generation will see RSI as something normal. New generations of interpreters will basically be trained in RSI; it’ll be normal to them. That’s one more thing we need to keep in mind.
Where do RSI providers need to grow to be the #1 choice amongst other interpretation solutions?
The user interface, sound quality, the interaction between interpreters and the rest of the team: all of this needs to be easy and intuitive. That’s super important. Documentary support, having access to speeches, presentations, handouts, to the same documents that the participants get – this seems obvious. Still, sometimes it’s not so easy to navigate considering the current capabilities of the remote simultaneous interpretation platforms.
Another important aspect is getting the necessary materials from event organizers in advance to help interpreters better prepare for the event. Interpreters don’t require anything excessive, but having event materials in advance must become an industry standard to raise the standard for interpretation quality.
Would you be able to imagine the world without interpretation? Why or why not?
Well, that would mean that we either all speak the same language or have our brains wired in a way that we interpret the languages automatically – so, in simpler terms, the answer is no. I often joke that interpreting is the second oldest profession in the world because people have needed to communicate since the dawn of time. And it’s obviously going to stay that way.
From my perspective, RSI is something that can bring the benefits of interpretation to more people than any other interpretation mode. Instead of promoting mediocre English as the universal communication solution, remote simultaneous interpreting has the ability to help people express themselves in their mother tongue and preserve cultures worldwide.