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Interpreting Equipment: Video or Voice? (A First World Problem)


I have lived long enough that I regularly encounter issues that could not have occurred during most of my life. For instance, sometimes I feel like Pandora doesn’t even know me. For another instance, what should I do in those awkward situations when there’s a really great saying on someone’s Facebook page but I don’t like the person well enough to like their posts?

These and other so-called First World problems pose perfectly insoluble quandaries for coots like me. I’m 48 and sometimes I feel a million.

Just today I had a call scheduled with a client who was traveling in Peru and I couldn’t decide whether I should Skype, or text, or Skype text, or email, or email text, or Skype email, or voice mail, or Facebook email, or drop a note on LinkedIn, or just give up and hope she called me. It’s agonizing.

Later this afternoon, my child wanted to post something to Tumblr, but he left his iPad in the Subaru and his mother was out with it at her nail appointment so I had to let him use my laptop and my desktop wasn’t even powered on, plus it’s in the other room and we only have basic cable in there so I couldn’t watch the program I had DVRed and queued up on the HD cable box and boy howdy, that right there’s enough to drive a man stark raving nuts.

Interpreting Equipment: What It Is and What It Does

Then this evening my friend called and asked, “So, you know with that interpreting stuff or whatever, I was wondering – like, should I be using video or is a voice call good enough?” It occurred to me that a) I need new friends, and b) not everything newfangled is better than its predecessor, not always.

My friend went on, “But if I’m talking to someone who only speaks Korean, would it help if I could see them?” to which I replied, “I don’t know. Can you read lips in Korean?”

The truth is that a quality telephone interpreter can do his or her job just fine without the added benefit of video or any other fancy interpreting equipment. In almost any conceivable circumstance, if a phone call will suffice in English, it will suffice equally well in two languages. The question of whether or not to use video to embellish your conversation is a matter of personal preference. There is no need for fancy interpreting equipment or state-of-the-art upgrades to your phone system, your computer, or any other device to conduct perfectly effective bilingual business remotely. The phone has been a suitable form of communication since Mr. Bell hollered through it back in 1876.

Your business may work with customers, vendors, or others who prefer the modern wonder of video conferencing. As a matter of common courtesy, you may want to accommodate their preferences, but even if you do, there is no interpreting equipment that will enhance the experience on a purely linguistic basis. In fact, given the delay between speakers while the interpreter does the job at hand, a video conference could prove awkward, studded by frequent pauses during which two parties stare silently at one another through pinhole lenses continents apart.

Says me, if a thing’s not broken, leave that rascal unfixed. Part of what is so effective about telephone interpreting is the fact that it’s so user friendly it’s hardly detectable. Used well, by speakers conscious of staying clear and using brief and concrete statements, phone interpreting is the next best thing to being there and speaking the language yourself. You probably wouldn’t place a video call to your customer in Saginaw, and if you did your customer in Saginaw might find it, well, kind of creepy. If you don’t need it for Saginaw, you don’t need it for Seoul.

Anyhow, that ‘s the way I see it. But then I might not be the final authority on the subject. I’m still trying to figure out how to forward my Skype calls to my Magic Jack so I can listen to voice messages in Windows Media on my laptop at Starbucks. I’m telling you, life is tough.

"DonAdams" by General Artists Corporation-GAC-management. - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.(Original text : eBay item photo front photo back eBay itemphoto front). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -


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About Tony Phillips

Tony Phillips has worked as a grant writer and nonprofit executive in San Diego County for the past 20 years with a year-long hiatus in 2008, during which he spent a semester at China’s Hunan First Normal University and another at Mexico’s Instituto Tecnológico de San Juan del Río as a Business Communications instructor. Tony’s education includes a BA and MA in Philosophy from San Diego State University and Cal State Long Beach, respectively. He is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and other online and print publications. He is also a member of the American Grant Writers Association, Grant Professionals Association and numerous local and regional networks and taskforces.

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Meet the Authors

Brian Gruters

In addition to writing blogs for us, Brian Gruters manages translation projects for corporate clients. He started with Language Translation in 2015.

Brian brings several years of experience as a Spanish to English translator to his work. He has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of Arizona and a master’s in Environment and Resource Studies from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

As a writer, Brian is mostly interested in language, science, and environmental conservation issues. He writes for various publications, as well as his blog,

Jennifer Bustance

Jennifer Bustance is a California-based freelance writer, playwright, and novelist originally from Troy, Michigan. Her plays have been performed all over the country, and her prose has appeared in various online and print publications.

Jennifer is a teaching artist with the Playwrights Project, San Diego Writers, Ink, and UCSD Extension. She is the Playwright in Residence at the Scripps Ranch Theatre and a founding member of their New Works Studio. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College.

Chris Maroulakos

Chris Maroulakos has worked at Language Translation since 2007, and he is currently the director of operations. He has been a blogger and managing editor for the San Diego music blog Owl and Bear since 2008, and he also worked as a blogger and associate editor for NBC San Diego's SoundDiego music blog.

Chris holds certifications in SDL Trados Studio for Translators (Advanced Level), SDL Trados Studio for Project Managers, and SDL MultiTerm for Translators and Project Managers. He is Inbound Certified by HubSpot and also has certifications in Localization and Localization Project Management from California State University Chico, the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA), and the Localization Institute.

He graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a BA in Communications and with minors in Italian and International Studies.