Computer-Aided Interpretation: The Latest Tools for Interpreters
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Computer-Aided Interpretation: The Latest Tools for Interpreters

Computer-aided interpretation is changing the way interpreters work.

 In the past, they managed their assignments with tools such as:

  • An interpreter console, which is an electronic panel used in the interpretation booth that lets interpreters switch languages, plug in headsets, adjust the volume and control microphones.
  • Glossaries, to assist with learning vocabulary, understanding concepts and issues and speeding up output into the target language.
  • Interpreting delivery platforms, which are technology systems that allow for over-the-phone, video and machine interpretation.

Now, there is a new type of technology called computer-aided interpretation (CAI). These tools allow interpreters to prepare ahead of time, aid during the live event and can assist with post-processing. Primarily, they help guarantee the quality of interpretations and the use of accurate terminology.

Let’s take a look at this innovative new technology in more detail.

What they do

Computer-aided interpretation tools can reduce translation errors, optimize workflows, increase productivity and improve quality during assignments.

Glossary management is a key focus of these new CAI tools. They help professionals before, during and after the event with:

  • Preparing for assignments by providing a database of support material, tools for extracting, memorizing and understanding terminology and the ability to synthesize documents instantly.
  • Assisting during the event by providing access to multilingual glossaries and finding target-language equivalents if interpreters can’t recall certain terms. Searching for terms can be manual or automatic (via voice recognition).
  • Supporting the interpreter’s closedown tasks after the event, such as linguistic asset management, quality assessment and reporting functions.

For more details on these activities, check out this CSA article.

How they work

Interpreters can struggle to live-translate terminology such as proper names or concepts specific to the subject matter of the event.

Computer-aided interpretation tools can show glossary terms on a screen to the interpreter in real-time. They do this by analyzing spoken words and finding terms that the interpreter is unlikely to know. This can help interpreters easily produce names, entities and numbers on the spot. CAI tools also allow interpreters to focus on producing fluent and precise translations because they already have the terminology in mind.

Drawbacks of CAI

Although computer-aided interpretation technology is becoming more popular, there are still some drawbacks to using it.

One of the biggest shortcomings of this technology is that human linguists must input a term into the database to receive information. While this manual lookup mechanism is simple during preparation or follow-up work, it is time-consuming to perform this task in the booth while interpreters are listening, comprehending, translating, producing and monitoring speech. Naturally, it can become overwhelming to search for terminology on top of the responsibility of producing spoken content live. The development of voice recognition technologies is beginning to resolve this issue.

Another downside is that some interpreters find it strange to have a computer program present when they are in the booth. Change is sometimes difficult: interpreters sometimes prefer to use the traditional methods they have become used to using throughout their career.

The future of CAI tools

Despite current drawbacks, the use of computer-aided interpretation tools is on the rise, and as time goes on, these tools will need to evolve and improve for even better adoption. Speech recognition could be a major turning point: rather than the interpreter needing to manually input terms, they could speak the term aloud to search for terminology in the database, obtaining translated equivalents considerably faster.

For CAI tools to advance in the future, there will need to be more usability testing to help interpreters get better at using the programs instead of becoming overwhelmed by an overload of information. There also must be a way for interpreters to share their knowledge about these kinds of programs with other professionals; developers must work with educational institutions to make this a reality. Training and education will be important: if interpreters learn how to use computer-aided interpretation tools in school, there will be more of a demand for this type of technology once they enter the workforce.

Overall, it’s difficult to predict the speed at which CAI technology will advance because there are simply not enough interpreters to rationalize spending a great sum of money researching in this area. Plus, many interpreters are afraid that one day, the technology will take their jobs, and thus are hesitant to adopt new tools to assist their work.

Yet, if the interpreters on your team are looking to streamline their process and make glossary work more manageable, these advanced tools could be the perfect fit for your company.


If you’d like more advice on interpretation or translation, feel free to reach out to us today. At RWS Moravia, we help brands all over the world create compelling and effective products in over 250 languages.