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And we are baaaaack! What is happening with language interpretation on the first half of 2022?

By Giovanna Serrano
June 15, 2022

And we are baaaaack!

What is happening with language interpretation on the first half of 2022?

The return to the venues has arrived fast and furious. The pent-up demand for in-person meetings has brought with it an avalanche of events throughout the 50 United States and beyond. As international travel limitations ease, and as cities relax in-person gathering restrictions, the convention and tourism industry has rebounded with so much dynamism that it erased any remaining doubt about the permanence of physical, onsite meetings. That is not so say that videoconferences will disappear. On the contrary, virtual has earned its place as an excellent option for a specific type of gathering, which complements but doesn’t substitute in-person family reunions, celebrations, corporate gatherings, tradeshows, and conventions.

The conference interpretation and captioning markets experienced a sharp increase in demand as the number of meetings and conventions swelled. Interpreters started to see their calendars fill up quickly, conference interpretation technicians started to travel practically non-stop, and requests for proposals are overflowing email inboxes. UNIVERSE LANGUAGE experienced exactly the opposite to what happened in March 2020 when the entire calendar of events for the year was wiped out clean in one week.

A snapshot of this rise was the month of March, when one of Universe’s clients held meetings in twenty cities simultaneously, twelve of which required onsite interpretation services, to kick start the return of their in-person meetings. While UNIVERSE LANGUAGE had technicians, interpreters, and equipment in 12 cities, another client, the US Army was hosting a week-long event for army generals from Africa. This meeting required conference interpretation support staff to travel to and stay in the city where the convention was held, and accompany the English, French, Arabic, and Portuguese-speaking delegates from the convention center to the army post, to cover a variety of meetings that ranged from classes and discussions in conference rooms, to explosives and weapons trainings and demonstrations at the military base. There were several other meetings that took place in March, but for two full weeks, UNIVERSE LANGUAGE was working at full capacity, and had all its technicians and vehicles deployed around the country, as well as many interpreters, equipment distribution staff and event liaisons working simultaneously to support clients’ needs.

Another example of the noticeable increase in demand are recent events requiring over 1,000 interpretation receivers and headsets with multiple channels to facilitate interpretation in different languages. In February, March, and April, UNIVERSE LANGUAGE supported at least two events each month requiring 1,000 or interpretation receivers. Prior to the pandemic, events requiring more than 1,000 were requested about once every two or three months, with most events requiring around 150 or less audio receivers.

At the same time, demand in 2022 for interpretation during short virtual meetings has stayed steady in comparison to 2021. Clients who were holding their conventions online in 2020 and 2021 have continued to hold virtual meetings (normally meetings lasting less than 2 hours) and have continued to offer virtual interpretation and captioning services.

Surprisingly, hybrid events have not experienced an increase in demand parallel to in-person or virtual. Hybrid, which professionals in the conference and meeting planning industry expected to be very much in demand, have moved away from offering interpretation in hybrid environments, probably because of the lag between the two environments, as well as the somewhat “disconnect” between the experiences of the in-person versus the virtual audiences. Some production companies have learned how to eliminate the lag, but not all, which results in a somewhat chopped experience normally more for the people watching virtually from their home or office. Merging the two environments requires very specific knowledge, and it is expensive. 

To overcome the “disconnect” many convention planners have resorted to offering a seamless in-person event, and separately, they organize a separate event for the remote or virtual attendees with highly curated prerecorded content and by using very controlled parameters that guarantee a meaningful experience for the remote participant.

It is a brave new world for the people in the meeting and convention planning industry. For the captioners, language interpreters, and equipment providers, a wide gate opens with the increased demand for in-person and with the myriad of opportunities offered with interpretation and captioning in the virtual realm.


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