Phone, video or face-to-face interpreting – which one do I need?

Published on March 14th, 2017



When you need a quick conclusion to conversations across language barriers, professional interpretation means everyone knows where they stand. From business meetings to international court cases, the world is full of important conversations where translation mistakes simply can’t be tolerated.

Today we’re going to look at the pros and cons of the three most common types of interpretation: phone, video and face-to-face interpreting.

Choosing the right kind of interpretation is important.


Face-to-face interpreting

Face-to-face interpreting is the only way to go when having the presence of a translator in the room is important. Whether it’s a high-profile meeting or a large-scale conference with multiple speakers, face-to-face interpreting caters to the most demanding environments.

Imagine an international conference with speakers from various countries, all speaking in their own language. We can provide a team of interpreters to translate each participant’s words in real-time – both for the audience and other speakers, if need be.

In terms of quality, face-to-face interpreting offers the highest standards in the most challenging situations. The downside is you have to organise things well in advance and the overall cost tends to be higher than other approaches, but it tends to be for scenarios where cost isn’t the most important factor.


Telephone interpreting

The two main benefits of telephone interpreting are convenience and cost. Aside from speed and convenience, telephone interpreting is also the cheapest option you’ve got. So, if you have regular interpretation needs – especially at short notice – telephone interpreting is an ideal way to go.

There are some compromises with taking the phone approach, though. The most obvious drawback is you don’t get that person-to-person connection between speakers and interpreter. There are a number of business, medical and legal situations where having an interpreter present is important – either in terms of professional conduct or enabling the interpreter to read the reactions, body language and facial expressions of speakers.

Telephone interpreting is also generally limited to simple environments where speakers take turns and wait for the interpreter to translate their words. This isn’t always suitable for more complex scenarios, where you might need to explore other options.


Video translation services

Video translation services sounds like a middle ground between telephone interpreting and face-to-face interpreting – and in many cases this is true. You get the 24 hour, instant service benefit and your interpreter has the opportunity to see the people they’re translating for.

However, there’s more to our video translation services than simply making compromises. International business meetings increasingly take place over video, removing the need (and cost) of travelling for the sake of a meeting – and video interpreting means languages never get in the way of business.

Another common use is situations where deaf or hard-of-hearing persons need to communicate with people who don’t know sign language. Traditionally, this required face-to-face interpreting (and still does in many cases) but video interpreting provides a modern alternative that’s often cheaper and more convenient.

Video interpreting can’t always replicate having someone there in the room, of course. It also requires you to have a suitable video system in place. It could be as simple as having a web cam and an internet connection or something a little more sophisticated – it really depends on your needs.


As you can see, there’s more to Phone, video or face-to-face interpreting than simply having someone there to translate for you. Depending on the environment, your needs can vary drastically but we’re always here to help you choose the right service and get the setup you need in place. So don’t hesitate to get in touch with our specialist team of language experts today if you need any advice.

Posted on: March 14th, 2017