RSI Interpreter Survey Report
Survey Report: The state of Remote Simultaneous Interpretation in 2020-21:
An insight into the remote simultaneous interpretation experience for interpreters and how it can be improved.
Interprefy was the most used platform when comparing both number of users and frequency of use, regardless of changes in pricing or sentiment towards Remote Simultaneous Intepretation (RSI).
Audio quality/speech intelligibility was voted the most important factor for interpreters when interpreting remotely. However, feedback suggested that audio performance relied more on speaker hardware, internet and training.
Changes in rates did not seem to influence interpreter sentiment toward RSI.
Interpreters who had more work acquired tended to experience an increase in their rates, whilst interpreters who had a decrease in work acquired were more likely to experience a decrease in their rates.
Interpreters are gaining confidence in Remote Simultaneous Interpretation, with an overall positive shift of interpreter sentiment towards RSI.
Part One: Platforms Used
The first part of our survey asked respondents about how they delivered remote simultaneous interpretation in the past 12 months.
When asked whether they had used dedicated or non-dedicated platforms for their RSI projects, 70% of interpreters have used a combination of both to deliver interpretation online.
Only 6% of respondents have not interpreted remotely at all.
As a large number of virtual events and meetings are being held on video conferencing platforms, it seems that more interpreters have been performing interpretation on non-dedicated platforms compared to the number of interpreters performing interpretation on dedicated platforms. This could be largely attributed to the cost of integrating multiple platforms into a single virtual event, compelling interpreters to make sacrifices in audio quality and technical support.
Over 70% of interpreters have experienced working on multiple different platforms throughout last year, while 30% have used only one.
When we asked Interpreters what other platforms they were using, they gave a wide range of responses including:
Olyusei - 6%
Rafiky - 3%
QuaQua - 2%
iBridgePeople - 2%
SpeakUs - 2%
WebSwitcher - 1%
TheSpeech - 1%
Interpretex - 1%
Despite the disparity when comparing the number of interpreters who had used each platform, the frequency of use for each was quite even, with most platforms being used for 40-50% of interpreters' projects.
Part Two: Platform Performance
The second part of our survey asked respondents about their experiences with dedicated remote interpretation platforms.
Interpreters had differing views when it came to how they would rank the importance of each factor. However, they were almost unanimous in their ranking of audio quality, with 94% of all respondents placing it within their top two most important factors.
This is predictable, as interpreters rely on good speech intelligibility from speakers to reliably and accurately perform simultaneous interpretation. Good speech intelligibility also greatly reduces the cognitive load experienced by interpreters, by making it easier to comprehend what the speaker is saying. However, most interpreters felt that audio quality was independent of platforms and instead relied heavily on the equipment and internet connection used by speakers.
For audio quality, Congress Rental Network RSI had the highest score, achieving an average rating of 81. Voiceboxer came in second with an average approval rating of 77.6. Interprefy acquired a score of 76.8, coming in third for its performance in the category.
When asked how they determined each platform's score for audio quality, a majority of interpreters responded that performance relied heavily on the equipment and internet connection used by speakers. When speakers used quality hardware and a stable internet connection, interpreters felt that platforms performed quite similarly.
For live technical support, Congress Rental Network RSI attained the highest average approval rating at 85.2. Next was Voiceboxer, which earned an average of 81.4, the second highest in the category. Third place was Interprefy, with an average rating of 75.4.
When prompted to comment about their scoring criteria, many interpreters responded that aside from a few platforms, technical support was provided by the agencies or event organisers, rather than by the platform providers. If the agencies did not provide support, then interpreters would be left to solve issues by themselves.
When it came to user interface, Voiceboxer obtained an average score of 82.4, the highest in the category. Interprefy achieved second place, with an average of 81.6. Congress Rental Network RSI's user interface earned it an average score of 80.6.
When asked to comment about user interface in RSI, interpreters often mentioned that the user interface of dedicated platforms were much better for performing interpretation when compared to non-dedicated platforms. However, there were still things that interpreters suggested could be improved, including more shortcut keys, on-screen cheat sheets that can be toggled, and a better on-screen layout for some platforms.
Voiceboxer's partner handover and chat functionality was rated the highest amongst the platforms, with an average score of 81.4. Interprefy was the second highest rated in this category, with an average of 76.2. The third place platform was Congress Rental Network RSI, with interpreters giving it a score of 71.2.
Congress Rental Network RSI attained the highest rating for video quality, with an average of 75. Interpreters gave Kudo a score of 74.6, placing it second amongst the various platforms. The third highest score was achieved by Voiceboxer, with an average rating of 71.6.
When asked how they determined each platform's score for video quality, most interpreters responded that, like with audio quality, performance relied heavily on the equipment and internet connection used by speakers.
Voiceboxer achieved the highest overall rating with a total of 78.9. Congress Rental Network RSI came had the second highest overall approval rating of 78.6. Third place was Interprefy, which had an overall approval rating of 76.2.
For individual categories, Congress Rental Network achieved the highest rating three out of five times. It ranked first for audio quality, video quality, and live technical support. Voiceboxer ranked first for both partner handover/chat functionality and user interface. Both platforms ranked in the top three for each category.
Part Three: Interpreter Sentiment
Part three of the survey posed questions about respondent's feelings towards different aspects of RSI and how it could be improved.
Overall, interpreter sentiment towards remote simultaneous interpretation has shifted positively.
Positive sentiment has increased by roughly 42%. A larger proportion (73%) of interpreters now view RSI positively or very positively, compared to only 31% of interpreters in 2019.
Negative sentiment has decreased by roughly 20%. Now, only 12% of interpreters have a negative or very negative attitude towards RSI, down from 32% in 2019.
It seems that most interpreters' impressions of RSI are improving as they complete more projects and become more proficient with the various platforms available. Furthermore, 2020 proved that there was a use case for RSI, especially when the interpreter was unable to travel.
When asked which work environment they preferred, 46% of interpreters said that they preferred working from home, while 31% of interpreters preferred working in interpreter hubs. Almost a quarter of the respondents didn't have a preference either way.
Since interpreters began delivering more RSI projects, the benefits of working from home have made themselves evident. Not only is working from home more convenient, it also removes the need to travel to and from the event, and allows interpreters to carry out multiple small meetings on a single day. This could be an explanation as to why working from home seems to be favoured. In comments to other questions, some respondents mentioned that working from home made is easy for them to juggle work and personal life.
When asked how their pricing had changed in the past 12 months compared to in 2019, almost half (49%) of the respondents indicated that they had not changed their pricing in the past 12 months.
The remaining respondents were also quite evenly split, with 26% of interpreters indicating a decrease in pricing and 25% of interpreters indicating an increase.
In the following question, when interpreters were prompted to comment on this change, many of them stated that the industry should be pushing to increase the pricing that is charged on RSI projects. Reasons given included higher cognitive load, the change from full-day to per-hour rates, and risk to hearing health.
The pricing model most favoured by interpreters was the minimum full day rate. In total, 76% of the interpreters felt either positive or very positive toward minimum full day rates.
Minimum half day rate was the second most popular pricing model amongst interpreters. 48% of the respondents expressed that they felt positive about the pricing model, and 23% felt very positive about it.
The least popular pricing model by far was the per minute rate, with the majority of interpreters holding a negative view of it. In total, 84% of respondents said that they felt either negative or very negative about the model.
Interpreters were slightly more favourable towards per hour rates, with only 28% of interpreters expressing that they felt very negative. However, the overall sentiment was still negative, with a total 60% of respondents stating that they felt either negative or very negative.
When asked how much work they were getting in 2020-21 compared to in 2019 (taking into account both RSI and on-site projects), 29% of interpreters revealed that they were getting much more work. Meanwhile, 16% said that they were getting a little more work when compared to the amount of work they did in 2019.
The number of interpreters who experienced a decrease in the amount of work was quite similar to the number who experienced an increase. In total, 39% of respondents stated that they were getting less work in 2020-21, compared to the 45% who were getting more work.
The most commonly suggested method to improve the RSI experience for interpreters was to train speakers and require them to use dedicated headphones and microphones. Interestingly, many of the comments in previous sections alluded to this, suggesting that audio and video quality was largely influenced by the quality of camera and microphones used by speakers.
Another suggestion that stood out was to simplify the interpreter partner handover process. It seems that, as a crucial part of the simultaneous interpretation process, partner handover seemed to be poorly handled on quite a few platforms. Some interpreters also mentioned the implementation of video capabilities between booth partners to facilitate the handover process.
Further insights: segmentation
By segmenting the responses of survey participants, it's possible to get a better insight into the different factors that may be contributing toward their attitudes.
How does an interpreter's preferred working environment change with their attitude towards RSI?
Interpreters who were generally positive toward RSI in 2020-21 seemed to be more comfortable working from home. 54% of respondents with positive views said they preferred to work from home, while 22% said that they didn't have a particular preference.
Meanwhile, the majority of the Interpreters who felt negative about RSI in 2020-21 preferred working from an interpreter hub. 61% of respondents with negative views said they would rather work from a hub.
Most likely, Interpreters who have a negative view of RSI feel that hubs could improve their experience with RSI. Interpreter hubs offer extra support and accessibility to interpreters. With live technical support personnel, and often face-to-face interaction with booth partners, hubs remove some of the fundamental issues of RSI from the equation and make the experience for interpreter easier.
How does an interpreter's attitude towards RSI change with their change in pricing?
Interpreters who experienced an increase in their pricing felt slightly more positive about RSI than interpreters who experienced a decrease in their pricing. However, there seems to be no major difference in how they're distributed.
Both segments have a majority of interpreters with a positive view of RSI in 2020-21. 85% of interpreters who experienced price increase had a positive view, while 67% of interpreters who experienced a price decrease felt the same.
Interpreters who experienced a price decrease also had more respondents with a negative view of RSI overall, 13% when compared to 9% of respondents who had increased their pricing.
It seems that pricing changes had only a minimal effect on interpreter outlook toward RSI. Many interpreters have stated in comments that increased pricing was justified due to the increased cognitive load and suboptimal working conditions of RSI.
What is the relationship between amount of work acquired and pricing?
80% of interpreters who increased their pricing in 2020-21 have reported that they have received either more or about the same amount of work compared to in 2019 (RSI + on-site).
On the other hand, only 51% of interpreters who decreased their pricing have reported the same about their amount of work.
43% of interpreters who increased pricing said that they were getting much more work in 2020-21, while 44% of interpreters who decreased their pricing said that they were getting much less work.
It appears that there is a relationship between pricing and amount of work won. This is most likely because interpreters who were acquiring more work were more likely to increase their rates whereas interpreters who were obtaining less work were more likely to decrease their rates.
2020 was an opportunity for interpreters and platform developers alike to test the limits of remote simultaneous interpretation. The past year has given rise to many new insights into what has worked well, what hasn't, and what needs to be improved. Now we look forward to the return of on-site events, with a better understanding of what RSI can offer, and the possibilities it unlocks for events worldwide.
Our survey served to ensure that interpreters had a platform to voice their feedback about the various major RSI platforms that existed. In total, we gathered responses from 241 interpreters. However, our results were skewed due to the large proportion of respondents who had worked with us in the past. In future surveys, we hope to gather opinions from a wider range of respondents so that our results can more accurately reflect the voice of the international interpretation community.