Telephone Interpreting vs Face to face Interpreting – How do you know which is right for you?

The debate over which form of interpretation, face to face or remote as superior has moved to new levels as we deal with the current COVID-19 pandemic. Telephone interpreting has quickly defined itself as an outlier during the crisis as global calls for social distancing necessitates the use of remote services where possible.

But once the current global crisis has subsided, the question of which form of interpreting is best for your organisation will still be in the air. So, which is better: face to face interpreting or telephone? The short answer? Both.

Why Choose Telephone Interpreting?

The primary advantage of telephone interpreting is how successful the service is at resolving urgent language requirements. The ability to connect with an interpreter is quite literally at your fingertips, with our service providing a connection with all languages in minutes.

When emergency situations arise in the healthcare sector, the ability to efficiently translate patient needs is essential in ensuring the correct treatment is administrated as quickly as possible Instant access to language services is also available 24/7, as we understand the unpredictable nature of both the health and social care sectors. The need for communication never stops, and neither does access to a telephone interpreter that we provide.

The use of telehealth services, such as Babylon Health, has also been on the rise throughout the wider population, with online GP appointments allowing for flexibility around work schedules. Telephone interpreting can easily be used in conjunction with these services. While the matter of safety is particularly relevant to the current global crisis, remote interpreting always prioritises safety. It can be utilised in situations where there is a potentially violent service user or the presence of a professional can pose a risk to the case at hand.

Why Choose Face to Face Interpreting? 

While telephone interpreting, and other forms of remote interpreting, embody the technological evolution of the language industry the need for a physical interpreter will never be made redundant. Certain situations will always call for the presence of an interpreter in person. When the situation allows for it, pre-booking a face to face interpreter provides communication services with the addition of visual cues which can provide much needed comfort for the service user.

A specific interpreter can also be requested for a series of appointments, providing an important sense of continuity. Communication via language is not the only thing our interpreters provide in a face to face booking. Correctly interpreting the body language of a service user is invaluable in safeguarding situations, which is why we require all of our interpreters to hold an enhanced DBS certificate.

The tremendous impact of having an interpreter in person was demonstrated last year when one of our interpreters attended a booking only to notice the service user was acting abnormally.  Their actions suggested they were a victim of human trafficking. After alerting a staff member, they sadly found out they were correct – the service user had been a victim of modern slavery, and the attention to detail that our interpreter provided was essential in identifying this.

The question we should be asking is not which form of interpreting is right for your organisation, but which is right for each situation? We understand that the nature of our clients’ work is ever-changing, so we provide both face to face and telephone interpreting on demand, tailoring each interpreting session for your needs.

If you would like to find out more about the interpreting services we offer, contact us on 0121 554 1981 or email at

Written by Portia C

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