Trends in the language services industry: The continued rise of the remote interpreter

There was probably a sort of Golden Age of the Interpreter, where technology had gotten good enough to support and facilitate an interpreter’s work, but where for the most part the interpreter needed to be on site. So you saw a lot of interpreters traveling here and there, near and far, to work at conferences, job sites, business meetings, court hearings, and so on. It sounds almost glamorous, doesn’t it? 
Tech advances then reached a point where those plane tickets and travel expenses began to dry up, as it became easier and easier and more and more cost effective to bring the interpreter onto the scene either over the phone or virtually. Not only can remote interpreting be more cost effective, it can also be safer-- think of military applications, war zones, language support during epidemics, and so on. Smart phones allowed us to go mobile with a distant interpreter, and platforms geared towards finding and engaging with a distant interpreter began to pop up across the internet.
How it used to be?
Remote interpreting was already very much on the rise before 2020. But then the pandemic happened, and here also caused an acceleration of this trend. Suddenly, in most cases the only option if you needed an interpreter was that it had to be remote. While in some sectors an attempt is being made now to “return to normal”, what will actually happen is we will eventually adapt to what everyone is calling the “new normal”, and this will further solidify the rise of the remote interpreter.

There will still be cases where an on-site interpreter is a good idea and feasible from a cost standpoint. But from a client perspective, in many instances remote interpreting just makes good sense. And if you think in terms of reach, this may in some senses be the start of a new, more golden Golden Age. There was a not too distant past when if you had a medical emergency in a place where you did not speak the language, finding someone to facilitate communication with medical professionals was something with a high degree of chance involved, and that is steadily being replaced with certainty. Access to interpreting services is now more widely available than ever, regardless of where you are or the languages you need. More and more interpreters than ever before are able to reach clients with their services, in their languages, almost instantly, and at a lower cost to the professional as well.


The ever-blurring line between translator and interpreter

The line between translator and interpreter used to be well-defined and it was not so common to see someone professionally tackling both. However, between 30 and 40% of translators and interpreters are either currently considering, or have already become, what Claudia Brauer called transinterpreters.
Some interpreters, increasingly office bound, already have most of the setup required for translation work, and are finding it easier to pick up translation jobs between interpreting gigs. An obstacle to this can be the way that some remote interpreting systems work: you may not get as much work if you are not readily available during certain hours of the day, and you may not always have ample warning of incoming jobs, thus cutting down on the time you can safely allot to meeting a translation deadline.
As remote interpreting becomes the way most interpreting gets done, and as it also increases the amount of interpreting that can be done, it should not be surprising that more and more translators are saying, “Hey, I would like to do that too!” Remote interpreting can be a fun way to spice up the gaps between translation projects and bolster one’s income. And so an increasing number of translators are getting trained to interpret. At the moment, this is the larger of the two segments: more translators are going into interpreting than interpreters going into translation.
 Batman contemplates translation and interpreting



Industry report, 2022


This is an excerpt of the most recent industry report. To read the full report, you can go to industry reports are periodic publications that take a look at trends, challenges, and opportunities in the language services industry, from the perspective of the freelance language professional. paying members enjoy immediate, full access to these reports.





Get trained. If you are getting into interpreting, or thinking about doing so, good news. New training options were just added as part of the Plus membership subscription, designed to get you ready to work (and save you money). See more here.


If you are not yet a member, you can start now, with special discounts on membership and training. Find out more »


Topics: translation, interpreting, language services industry

Jared Tabor

Written by Jared Tabor

Jared oversees Member services at An ex-language teacher, he has lived and worked in Argentina since 1996. He has been with through the La Plata office since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter, @taboredinc .

Subscribe to Email Updates

    Lists by Topic

    see all

    Posts by Topic

    see all

    Listen to the Podcast


    Recent Posts