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Pros and Cons of Over-the-Phone Interpretation

Telephone interpreting is a service that was established 45 years ago by the Australian government in an attempt to help the growing number of immigrant communities. It was free of charge and people were initially able to receive help in eight different languages. The idea of remote interpretation was also adopted in the USA a few years later and the first over-the-phone interpretation was provided in 1981.

Now, with the development of phone services, it has gained popularity all over the world and is often used by companies, healthcare institutions, and governmental organizations. It is an efficient way to facilitate communication between two parties that speak a different language when no interpreter can be physically present at their meeting. 

Over-the-phone interpretation has many advantages but also a few drawbacks that we are going to discuss below. It is a good idea to get to know the pros and cons of the service prior to deciding whether it will be suitable for your specific case.


Advantages of over-the-phone interpretation 

Over-the-phone interpretation (OPI) may turn out to be exactly the right type of service for you or your company due to some of its specific advantages. Some of the most important include: 

  • Convenient access to professional services 

As OPI is available round the clock, you can rest assured that you have access to experienced professionals regardless of your location and time zone. The service is available immediately when you need it and that is why it is suitable for health institutions, for example, where an emergency situation may require interpretation at 4:00 am. In such cases, OPI is a reliable tool that serves all interested parties. The job is convenient for interpreters as well since they are able to organize their working hours and choose whether to work during the weekend, mornings, or evenings as telephone interpretation is needed at all times.

  • Suitable for small projects 

OPI is quite suitable for small projects or events that occur quite rarely or are not likely to happen again. In such cases, having an in-house interpreter or hiring someone to come to your place just for a 15 minutes talk will not be good for your budget. The same goes if you need interpretation services for a rare language. It is easier to contact a provider that offers OPI and make use of the quick and professional service. Imagine that you need to call your partners just to confirm the time and venue of your meeting. It won’t take more than 5 minutes and the easiest way to understand each other is with the help of OPI.

  • Cost-efficient  

Of all the advantages, the fact that OPI can save you money is perhaps one of the most cherished ones. You pay for the service only when you need it. It is not necessary to cover any transportation or other costs for the interpreters. You pay only for the interpreting that you need and most important of all only when you need it. There is a rate that is charged per minute, so you pay only for the minutes that you have used the interpreter and nothing else. This makes OPI a convenient and affordable service that gives you access to dedicated professionals and multiple languages.


Over-the-phone interpretation disadvantages 

While the disadvantages of OPI are fewer than their advantages, it is still worth mentioning them.

  • Not suitable for more than two participants 

Telephone interpreting can work pretty well with just two participants, however, if more people are involved the process might not be so smooth. Even though modern technology allows for conference calls, the service may be affected by the fact that it is not clear who is speaking at the moment. In cases of more parties involved, video remote interpretation might be a better option.

  • Workplace conditions may be distracting 

If there is too much background noise it might be difficult to hear the interpreter well or to understand each and every word that is spoken. Interruptions in the call can also be annoying – it may turn out that one party is speaking while the other is not able to hear and some time may elapse before the problem is discovered. Calls can also drop for one reason or another, which may interrupt the communication process and even lead to some misunderstanding.

  • Working with the same interpreter is not guaranteed 

It is always easier to work with professionals with whom you are familiar. Quite often people feel better working with the same interpreter, whom they already trust. With OPI, this is not guaranteed, however, and may be perceived as an inconvenience by some clients. Still, some arrangements can be made to use one and the same professional as often as possible.


The overall conclusion is that OPI is a convenient yet affordable service that can be used in many industries – from emergency call centers such as 911 to regular businesses. You can set up an account with a trusted language provider and use their quick and confidential services at a price that has no match in the interpretation industry. Despite some of the drawbacks, OPI has been already established as a reliable way of overcoming the language barrier and making communication much easier.


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