Professional translation and interpretation services in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Pandemic impact on conference interpretation industry

2020 and 2021 have been turbulent years for many because of the Covid-19 pandemic.


For the language industry, the most affected service has been on-site or in-person interpretation, and especially conference interpretation. Such events that were due to take place in March 2020 onwards were abruptly cancelled in nearly every country. 


South-East Asia, and specifically Malaysia, have been known as a hub for international events. Conference (simultaneous) interpretation in this region was a very demanded service prior to 2020. This is the reason why many conference interpreters are domiciled in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 


As it often happens, businesses had to innovate and to adjust to a new reality: events and meetings mass-migrated to the virtual realm. Zoom, as well as other platforms for virtual meetings, unsurprisingly flourished. Simultaneous interpretation (SI) followed suit and went online. Commonly referred to as SI, this service now has another letter added to its more familiar acronym; “R”, giving us “Remote” Simultaneous Interpretation. 


It’s worth noting that RSI had existed before 2020, with the help of platforms such as Kudo and Interactio, which had been on the market long before the pandemic. With simultaneous interpretation provided remotely, events can now take place anywhere, and interpreters participating from the other side of the globe. The savings that are achieved through this service were evident for projects that required interpreters to be flown in from abroad. Costly on-site (physical) equipment rental and tech support expenses are also crossed out for event owners: even if the event is physical, bulky old-fashioned equipment with high setup costs and headsets for delegates would no longer be required with RSI, where the interpretation can even be delivered through a smartphone.



RSI over zoom
Interpreter performing remotely

 The question that practically asks itself here is this: is RSI as good as traditional SI? 


It turns out that there’s more than what meets the eye when it comes to remote interpretation, and specifically remote conference interpretation. Think of having virtual meetings, or online learning, as compared with meeting someone face to face or being in a classroom. Likewise, physical presence, being immersed at the event and reading non-verbal cues from speakers and delegates are all important aspects of the interpreters’ job that do contribute to a better performance. Hence, while running events virtually or having teams of interpreters remotely does bring about significant savings, it certainly has a flip side of the coin as well.


Impact on the simultaneous interpretation industry and events


Conference interpretation is normally required at large conferences that have a large number of attendees, high profile speakers, and last for a few days long. Smaller gatherings, trainings and workshops are required at a lesser degree. International conferences just do not run for one day only; that isn’t likely to be the case with attendees coming from overseas, as well as all the networking takes place alongside the main program. Things have changed since early 2020, when the vast majority of events have gone virtual. 


Events have become much shorter when taking place virtually. Events that last for a few days now mostly have agendas of up to 4-5 hours per day on average. We witness less formality and more focus on the subject matter at events that take place online. 


One would assume that the conference interpretation rates have gone down and averaged globally since 2020, with options of having any interpreter irrespective of his or her physical location (so long as time zones would permit). However, not only have senior interpreters maintained their rates, many of them have raised it. This can be attributed to the working limitations that come with being remotely connected to the event. As explained above, it is more difficult to interpret remotely, and the distinction in quality between qualified and unqualified interpreters is even more severe in RSI.  


With exceptions dependent on the region, the situation with the pandemic, and local authorities, physical events are once again starting to take place, and conference interpreters are slowly getting back to their accustomed environment: the interpreter’s soundproof booth. However, we can safely assume that the virtual format has been embraced by most stakeholders, and RSI will continue playing a key role in the years to come.  


Maven International’s experience in the field. 


Maven International has become a trusted name in the field of conference (simultaneous) interpretation in Malaysia and South-East Asia in general. Organizations such as the UN, Interpol, Transparency International, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FIFA have been trusting our conference interpretation and equipment solutions for years.  


We have gained solid experience in providing turnkey conference interpretation solutions with the equipment and technology required for on-site and remote simultaneous interpretation services respectively. We have provided several on-site conference interpretation services, inclusive of tech support, for events that took place in Malaysia, Singapore, Germany, Brunei, Fiji, USA and Turkey. 


Since 2020, we have provided remote simultaneous interpretation services to clients such as the AFC, AFI, and the US Embassy in Malaysia to name a few. Apart from conference interpretation, we also provide coordination and tech support to set up, run and monitor conference interpretation at our clients’ virtual events. We also provide virtual event production for events that take place over the Zoom platform in order to do the most we possibly can to fulfill the role of a one-stop interpretation service provider. Please feel free to contact us for further inquiries.