Is Zoom the best option for Remote Simultaneous Interpretation (RSI)?
Zoom is currently the most popular video conferencing platform. This rising popularity is largely due to its user-friendly platform; it is easy to set up, run, and manage. Add cost-effectiveness to the mix and you’ve got yourself the perfect ingredients for a ready video conferencing solution. With a conference interpretation plugin that meets all the basic requirements for the service, Zoom can function as a Remote Simultaneous Interpretation (RSI) system.
The process of setting up a conference on Zoom, as well as adding interpreters and setting up the RSI, is quite straightforward; although clients often prefer a turnkey solution that would include virtual event production by an agency.
Something worth noting is that a mandatory 30-minute rehearsal with interpreters, right before the start of the event, is essential as a means to ensure a smooth process and avoid technical problems during the event itself.
All of the above aside, the system has some serious cons which make it suboptimal for RSI.
1) Zoom lacks a relay interpreting function.
As of October 2021, it’s not possible for interpreters to listen to interpreters outside of their specific language pair. Relay interpreting, sometimes referred to as “indirect interpreting”, is when the interpreter listens to the source language speaker and interprets the message into the language that is common to all the other interpreters. Other interpreters would then render the message to their target language groups.
2) Zoom’s conference interpretation is not an option at events with breakout sessions (virtual rooms with parallel discussions within the same event).
If you plan to have an event with more than one parallel (breakout) session, you won’t be able to utilize remote interpretation plugin.
3) Limited functionality of interpreters’ interface.
The interpreters’ side of the work is affected as well: they cannot listen and follow the interpretation of their partner in the same language pair (it takes two interpreters per language to perform simultaneous interpretation for any event longer than one hour). There is also the problem that there is no direct communication between the interpreters, and the handover (switch in turns between interpreters) is not really as seamless as it should be when it comes to live interpretation.
There are other solutions for remote interpretation that are known within the conference interpretation industry, such as Kudo, Interactio, Interprefy and a handful of new players in the industry. These solutions are specifically built with remote conference interpretation in mind. Most of them can integrate and work with Zoom, Google meets and others. They can, of course, also act as stand alone, fully functioning platforms for virtual events.
Some drawbacks are the significantly increased cost relative to Zoom and that they’re less known to a wider audience. Tech support, setups, as well as briefing delegates and speakers should still be kept in mind.
Ever since the pandemic, Maven International has been providing remote simultaneous interpretation solutions. We rely on a team of trusted conference interpreters who are well experienced in working remotely, both over Zoom as well as other platforms. As part of our one-stop solution, we offer Zoom platform licensing as well as virtual event production, where we take care of the entire virtual event management process. We also offer third party platforms for virtual events.
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