By Katharine Allen and Barry Olsen
Many of us can remember the days, not very long ago, when it was rare to see a single headline about interpreting in the news. Nowadays, our daily news alerts are full of diverse stories that span the range from immigrants needing interpreters in community and health settings to major financial stories about the spate of mergers and acquisitions among language services companies.
Every now and then we get to break some news as well, and that's exciting. Today we celebrate the launch of a new interpreting technology alliance that could remake the way we connect our services to new clients.
Groundbreaking interpreting technology alliance
Interpreting has a new entity that represents something innovative and important for our field. Yesterday, at the GALA Annual conference, we helped announce the launch of the Interpreting Technologies Alliance (ITA). Back in October during a break at InterpretAmerica 6, Barry convened an informal huddle with the CEOs of six interpreting delivery platforms (IDPs) to problem solve the disconnect between their products and the market needs they are designed to meet. ITA is the result. The six founding companies are Boostlingo, Cadence Translate, Headvox, KUDO, VoiceBoxer, and ZipDX.
Why is this important? Well, a few years ago, the biggest dilemma facing IDPs, such as those that make remote simultaneous interpreting possible, was the technology itself. It was close but not quite there in terms of consistent reliability and functionality. No more. The technology has arrived. It works.
With that fundamental issue now resolved, now the biggest dilemma is the helping the businesses and industries that need these professional interpreting platforms to understand that they really do need them. This may sound funny, but it is a common problem for innovative technology. Ten years ago, none of us knew we "needed" smart phones. When the iPad launched, there were dozens of news articles dismissing it as a novelty, an expensive hand-held device to watch movies and browse the web that would have little application beyond that. Now smart phones and tablets are indispensable tools in all walks of life and professional activity.
Similarly, thanks to mobile technology and the new interpreting delivery platforms developed using it, we no longer have any real barriers to providing quality, professional interpreting services. The problem? The companies and clients that most need these services don't know these solutions exist. Thus, the impetus for the Interpreting Technologies Alliance.
The goal of the ITA is to raise the visibility and credibility of emerging solutions such as remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) and amplify the presence of interpreting technology in the business community. Jonathan Rechtman, co-founder of Cadence Translate and interim director and secretary of the alliance, commented: “We want to engage the demand side, and specifically the private sector. We want to grow the market intelligently, rather than fighting desperately with each other over the same limited demand.” Fox8Live
The conversation around the need for much broader, mainstream recognition of language services is an old one. We have made progress in some areas, such as the Bureau of Labor and Statistics now recognizing translation and interpreting as official occupations.
Now, with the launch of the ITA, interpreting has planted the seeds for what will become a powerful instrument that will help advance interpreting as a whole. The ITA is creating a membership model to encourage key stakeholders to get involved. The idea is tried and true, many actors working together towards the same goal can be more effective than those same actors working in isolation.
You can read an excellent article about the launch on the Common Sense Advisory blog, as well as the full press release. As the work of the ITA progresses, we will cover the lessons learned in the hopes of helping other areas of interpreting reach a broader audience as well.