This autumn, we had the great pleasure of being Nordic Business Forum’s interpreting partner for the tenth time in a row. All the fascinating presentations on the main stage at Messukeskus in Helsinki were interpreted simultaneously from English into Finnish and Estonian.
As before, interpreting was offered to almost 7,000 seminar participants at the venue as well as tens of thousands of livestream followers. Although many participants have good business English skills and listening to presentations in English is also a good option, this year’s audience was clearly more interested in interpreting than before and, for example, many people came to our stand to ask for instructions on how to use the interpreting application.
Now, why has interpreting suddenly become so popular?
Technology as a driver of growth
The language service industry as a whole has been growing for quite some time. The growth of translation services is driven by the internationalisation of companies, the development of technology and the exponential increase in content volumes. When it comes to interpreting, increased immigration and the use of new technologies have played a key role in increasing the demand for interpreting services.
The development of interpreting technology has provided easier access to services. It is no longer impossible to arrange interpreting at a very short notice or for very rare language pairs. Previously, it was necessary to think about getting a professional interpreter on site in person, whereas the focus today is more on the quality of interpreting and advising the customer on using the right interpreting technology. The number of languages available at meetings has also increased thanks to the development of technology.
When remote interpreting got a significant boost a few years ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we also said that remote interpreting is here to stay. We were right, but the desire to meet other people was still there and led to the return of in-person meetings. Meetings with interpreting are still held in Teams and on other platforms but also frequently in the traditional way. The coexistence of remote and in-person meetings resulted in a completely new type of interpreting: hybrid interpreting. Technology makes it possible for people to listen to interpreting both on site and remotely, and it may even be the case that interpreters are not always present at the event.
In any case, the availability of interpreting has improved and the increased use of technology has also seen interpreting become more interesting. It is no longer just language work; instead, customers often also need advice on choosing an interpreting platform and guidance on how to arrange a meeting and interpreting. In connection with meetings, other language services may also be needed, such as translation of documents or transcription of meeting recordings. A whole new concept has been born: the multilingual meeting.
Technology will not replace interpreters
I have not yet written much about interpreters themselves in this article. In most cases, technology has had a positive impact on the way interpreters work. Various databases, such as term bases and searchable reference material databases, have made the work of interpreters easier. Similarly, remote interpreting has made it possible to accept several interpreting assignments for the same day as time is saved when there is no need to travel.
Although technology is developing in leaps and bounds and machine interpreting is also emerging as an option, it is unlikely that human interpreters will be replaced by machines in the near future. The work of an interpreter requires the ability to identify with the speaker, to adapt to different circumstances and to encounter people, which is something that machines cannot do, at least for the time being. And who would even want to listen to a monotonous machine voice all the time!
In the future, I believe there will be even more demand for interpreting and interpreters.