Published June 29, 2017
Read on to learn how to win a free registration to the upcoming live webinar on Demystifying Interpreter Talent, a $75 value!
It may not be a buzz term yet, but the "interpreter talent gap" is sure to become one soon. For decades, our profession has been mostly based on a freelance, face-to-face interpreting model. The mobile technology revolution is changing that model, as it has for so many other professions. Now that humans can talk to each other from anywhere, any time with any device, the need for interpreter-mediated communication is exploding around the world.
For awhile, lack of appropriate communications technology has been the greatest barrier to meeting that demand on mobile devices. The interpreting world lacked platforms that could guarantee the necessary sound quailty and work consistently across devices and operating systems. In the past year especially, however, we have seen several robust platforms largely overcome these technical issues. The technology is ready to go.
The more problematic barrier to scaling up the scope of interpreted communication is the interpreters themselves. There simply aren't enough of us. Even before the advent of mobile technology, qualified, professional interpreters have been hard to find outside of the most commonly-requested language pairs and urban areas, Now, with additional demand for virtual meetings, business communication, and immigrant-based interpreting in healthcare, social services and legal settings on the rise, the talent gap has become even more acute.
The European conference interpreting market may be feeling the gap the least, at least for the moment. The face-to-face model still dominates and most countries have developed academic training pathways that produce trained, qualified interpreters for the workforce. This situation does not extend, however, to the growing need for non-traditional-language-pair interpreters for the large and recently-arrived migrant population from conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East. For example, few trained German-Arabic conference interpreters are available for the refugee, healthcare and legal interactions now taking place. Yet, the need is there.
In 2005, when the influx of refugees from the Middle East surged in Germany, Google translate saw a fivefold increase in the German-Arabic language pair--evidence of the accute demand and lack of human interpreters to fill it. This demand falls away from the headlines quickly, but the need remains.
Outside of Europe and traditional conference interpreting settings, the talent gap is much more acute. Huge numbers of interpreters are needed for international business, healthcare and legal communication, both across borders and inside countries.
Currently, language service companies compete intensely to develop their interpreter "pools" or databases. Even though most interpreters work as freelancers and may contract with multiple agencies and employers, the companies who hire them do everything they can to claim the interpreters they work with as their own.
Underlying the talent gap are several huge disconnects when it comes to devleoping a trained, professional interpreting workforce for non European conference interpreting, including.
Few academic programs exist to train interpreters, and those that do are often narrowly targeted to interpreting specializations, such as medical, legal or conference.
Interpreters come to the field from an endless variety of backgrounds and experiences. They do not have a shared body of knowledge or skill set that employers can rely on when hiring (as they can for other professions such as nursing, teaching or psychology).
Training programs for less common language pairs are almost non-existent.
Interpreters are spread out across multiple recruting and social media platforms and can be hard to locate.
Acute but often sporadic demand can lead to uncertain income for interpreters and creates high turnover in many specializations.
The issue of the interpreter talent gap is big, and the points raised here represent only one angle of the challenges our profession faces as it tries to bring interpreters, companies, technology developers, buyers, end users, educators and even legislators along to the new mobile era for the benefit of all.
On July 6, 2017, InterpretAmerica Co-President Katharine Allen will be giving a webinar on Demystifying Interpreter Talent - What Language Agencies Need to Know to Build Effective Interpreting Teams in collaboration with GALA, the Globalization and Localization Association. The detailed session description is below.
We are giving away TEN free registrations for the live webinar, which costs $75 for non-GALA members. We are giving them away to our readers. In addition, you'll receive a complimentary copy of our latest publication "10 Essential Tips for Success in a Changing Interpreting Market" just for entering to win.
Interpreting is a growth sector in the language services market. Many companies are seeking to increase existing interpreting services or to enter into this arena for the first time. Successfully expanding into interpreting requires three key elements: end-user demand, technology that works and access to professional, trained interpreter talent. In today’s market, locating, recruiting, and retaining the interpreter talent you need is the hardest aspect of providing interpreting services.
This webinar provides participants with a broad view of the general skill sets, training levels, and availability of interpreter talent in Europe and the US across different market areas, such as conference, healthcare and legal and spoken vs. sign language.
Participants will explore strategies for recruiting and working with professional interpreters and receive best practice recommendations for building the interpreting team appropriate to the various market segments, whether face-to-face or remote. If you are seeking clarity on how to work effectively with interpreters, this webinar is for you.