SIS has always been a champion and advocate for Face-to-Face interpreting rather than telephone or video interpreting. The pandemic has obviously seen a huge decrease in Face-to-Face interpreting to support “stay at home” and “social distancing” measures. As we reach the end of the “roadmap out of the lockdown” we are keen to highlight the benefits of Face-to-Face interpreting so that a return to Face-to-Face appointments are seen as a priority for our service users.
Practitioners and people with language needs prefer Face-to-Face interpreting and have provided consistent feedback on the drawbacks to telephone and remote interpreting
- body language cannot be interpreted or conveyed effectively
- poor sound quality
- hardware isn’t always available or suitable
- it can take longer using the phone
- using a loud speaker could compromised confidentiality
- physical examinations are particularly difficult using the phone
- it’s very impersonal and doesn’t facilitate building trust or rapport
- video screens can be a distraction from the content of the appointment
- people are less likely to open up about issues
SIS Community Interpreters have reported that they are unable to “add value” to the interpreting assignment when it takes place over the phone or by video; telephone and video session do not have space/time for informal pre and post sessions between the service user and the interpreter that would usually take place during waiting time.
It was during this waiting time that trust and rapport are established and built so that interpreters are able to gain a better understanding of the service users additional needs and give appropriate factual information, signpost to other organisations, and refer into SIS support services such as social prescribing, advocacy and befriending. Even asking simple questions, such as if a person needs help booking a vaccine appointment, can be difficult to fit into a more structured and focussed interpreting session over the phone or on a remote platform.
“It’s easier to trust a face to face interpreter, it’s more reassuring, face-to-face transfers emotions and body language more easily so communication is better, it’s easier to keep track of the conversation, telephones often have poor sound quality, concerned that the conversation may be overheard, it’s impossible to indicate things through a phone” SIS Service User
“Overcoming technical difficulties, like poor networks, which can make interpreting difficult in terms of hearing the Service User’s voice or them, hearing and understanding all the information given. This is particularly difficult in hospital wards and A&E Departments, which are often too busy and noisy to speak over the phone.
I found telephone interpreting more challenging than video interpreting because the Service User’s voice can vary in tone and strength depending on their emotional state especially in sensitive sessions.
It is more difficult with telephone interpreting to establish a trusting relationship with both the Service User and the Service Provider. There is no eye contact nor the ability to see body language”. SIS Self Employed Sessional Linguist
“Non-verbal communication is so essential and is already more difficult to gauge through an interpreter because the conversation isn’t direct but this would be so much worse if the interpreter was on the phone.” GP