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Interpreter Skills: Preparing for Your VRI Assignment

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) became increasingly relevant for safety and hygiene reasons. VRI has several advantages. It’s more flexible as you can interpret from anywhere with a secure internet connection. There’s no travel needed. It’s also more personal than over the phone (OPI) interpreting. It’s a rather comfortable half-step between in-person and over-the-phone interpreting. You can still see the person for whom you’re interpreting, so there’s an element of body-language that you can read. Naturally, it’s not as personal as in-person interpreting but it’s better than nothing. In this installment of our Interpreter Skills series, we’ll discuss basic information about VRI sessions and what to expect.

Preparing for Your VRI Assignment

All the information you need to know about the before, during and after the assignment

  • Before the Assignment:

    • Before a VRI assignment, you’ll receive an assignment request just as you usually do. If you’re working with an agency, this is by text, e-mail, or call from your project manager. If you’re working independently, your site contact will reach out. You’ll receive your work-order and prepare for the assignment as if it were in-person. It’s important to still dress professionally for your assignments. Prepare a clean, quiet space in which to set up your device so you can interpret without interruptions. You should receive the Zoom, Webex or MS Teams link (or other instructions related to the video chat) before the call. They’ll either be on the work order/in the assignment description itself, or your contact will send you that information. Prepare yourself and your workstation and be ready at least five minutes before the start time of your call. Be sure to keep all your regular interpreting supplies handy, as though you were at an in-person assignment.
  • During the Assignment:

    • Interpreting over video tends to be a little more like interpreting over the phone than interpreting in person. You have the advantage of being able to see and use body language as a part of your interpreting. However, clients sometimes need to be reminded more often that there’s an interpreter. Interpreters need a steady pace with pauses in order to interpret consecutively. You might find that you need to interject more often in VRI sessions than you do during in-person sessions. It might even be more than you typically interject during phone interpreting sessions. Clients need to make accommodations for interpreters, no matter the assignment format. Other than that, the interpreting itself usually goes smoothly. Taking notes is somewhat easier as you’ll have a desk available rather than just holding your book. It helps to enunciate slightly more than you usually do, to help with understanding.
  • Concluding the Assignment

    • Concluding the assignment happens as naturally over VRI as it does in-person or over-the-phone. The parties involved are usually more attuned to the time, as they’re looking at their computer displays. Thus, the assignments are actually more likely to end on time as compared to in-person interpreting or OPI. There are a couple differences between assignment conclusion during “typical” in-person assignments and VRI:
      • As the client isn’t able to sign your sheet, let them know the start and end times you’re writing down. Hold the sheet up to show them. Confirm that they accept these start and end times as they make up the duration of the assignment. Then, write “Client approved over video,” with the time that the client approved and the name of the person approving.
      • Rip your notes out, in half, and then in half again on video before you all log off. Discard them immediately.
      • If there’s going to be a follow-up session, remind the client to contact your agency to book interpreting services. They can’t book their next session just by telling you over video unless you’re working independently, without an agency.
  • After the Assignment:

    • After your VRI assignment, proceed as you normally would after any interpreting assignment. Send your work order with the start and end times and client approval notes to your project manager. If you’re working independently, send your invoice to your site contact. Also, if there will be a follow up, let your agency know so they can anticipate the call. And, if anything odd happened, let your agency or site contact know that, too. This might include losing connection or that the client wasn’t receptive to your asks for more frequent pauses. This helps your agency advocate for you in case the client has any concern or frustration.

Global Arena’s Interpreter Training Program

Looking for a place to try out your VRI skills? Global Arena’s Interpreting program covers medical, school, business, and legal interpreting. Our program is based on experiential learning, with discussions, activities, and opportunities to practice. We offer a foundation for new interpreters just starting in the industry. Experienced interpreters also benefit from brushing up on their skills and industry knowledge. The course takes place over zoom. Participants receive a welcome packet with reference materials, including glossaries and activity pages. You’ll also receive a certificate of completion upon passing exam score: useful for interpreting applications and resume-building. Sign up or learn more about the Global Arena’s Interpreter Training Program.

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