The Covid-19 pandemic has opened a new world in interpreting! VRI (video remote interpreting) has been brought to the forefront of court hearings.

Two of the widely used software solutions for VRI are WebEx and Zoom. It is wonderful to be able to see the people who need interpretation over a computer. There is a lot of context delivered through facial expressions. And, the ability to see people’s lips move enhances communication.

WebEx

I have worked in some courts using WebEx. It allows for multiple users to have access to the camera and microphone. It focuses attention on the person who is speaking by making their image full sized, and it switches back and forth between speakers.

WebEx also allows users to mute their microphone or turn off their camera. I’ve noticed that while using WebEx, if users turn off their cameras, it enhances the sound quality. It seems like WebEx can’t handle more than six cameras at once without the sound breaking-up a little.

This can be a bit frustrating, since everything the interpreter says has to be true to the original message. So there are a lot of requests for repetitions issued to the judge. This extends the time to get through hearings.

Video Call

WebEx hasn’t come up with an option for simultaneous interpreting yet. But, some organizations prefer WebEx, since it feels more secure. Since the media had some reports of break-ins into some Zoom meetings.

Zoom

The good news is that Zoom has privacy settings available. By setting up passwords and Breakout Rooms, those problems are automatically solved!

I am sure WebEx is the better solution for other uses, but as far as interpreting goes, I vote for Zoom. Just the fact that Zoom has a built in simultaneous interpretation option as an add on plan, gives it a huge advantage.

The plan has an additional cost. But, considering that it takes twice as long to interpret in consecutive mode compared to simultaneous mode, this cost difference is negligible. Organizations and courts having this feature would save time and therefore money by having this capability.

The down side, if you can even call it that, is that to use Zoom requires some training for the host and the interpreters. But it is very user friendly and doing a practice for under an hour should take care of that (for people with a little computer experience).

Zoom also seems to be able to handle more users at the same time. I attended a conference series with over 100 people in it, and there was no sound interference during any of the meetings.

Zoom had a glitch at the beginning in the simultaneous platform, but they got on it very quickly and eliminated that problem. Glitches are normal on new software, but few companies have such a quick resolution period, especially during this busy season for them.

What is the best video platform for interpreters?

WebEx needs to get up to speed to handle more users. Zoom is already there.

WebEx needs to add a simultaneous interpreting option. Zoom is already there.

WebEx will then need to work out the bugs in that new system. Zoom is already there.