Challenges with In-Person Interpreting Post-COVID

July 18, 2022 May 29th, 2024 No Comments

The COVID-19 pandemic changed so many aspects of our lives, and companies in every industry have had to pivot, and some changed their business model to adapt. In-person events became online events, doctor’s appointments turned into Zoom meetings, and educational institutions scrambled to teach online.

The pandemic created a huge increase in video remote interpreting (VRI) as all types of in-person events switched to online. In-person interpreting includes:

  • Consecutive interpreting – this type of interpreting is used in small settings like healthcare appointments or school conferences. One person talks while the interpreter listens, and then the interpreter translates what the speaker has said.
  • Simultaneous interpreting – this type of interpreting is usually used in larger settings like conferences. The interpreter translates the content while the speaker is speaking, and there are no breaks in speaking.

Medical needs, education, and business were some of the many areas that were forced to go online. Travel also largely came to a halt, which reduced the number of interpreters needed to support travelers.
The in-person interpreting industry is struggling to keep up with the demand as needs return to in-person. Like many of us, interpreters have faced a change in the way they work, and many prefer VRI or don’t want to take work in-person for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the many challenges with in-person interpreting.

Challenges with In-Person Interpreting

As a language services company that specializes in interpretation, here are some of the challenges that we’ve seen since the COVID-19 pandemic began that are still contributing to the lack of on-site interpreters. You’ll notice that almost all of them are due to pandemic related reasons.

#1 While the number of new COVID-19 cases seems to be on the decline for now, the pandemic is still ongoing, and interpreter vendors may have concerns about being exposed to the virus while on-site

#2 Interpreters, like many individuals in other professions, have experienced general burnout fatigue from COVID.

#3 Interpreters decline assignments at the last minute because they test positive for COVID.

#4 Interpreters may not want to travel, which could be for a variety of reasons, including COVID fears, rising travel costs, and personal preferences.

#5 Interpreters may not have all the vaccination requirements that clients or states require.

#6 Interpreters finally have consistent remote work opportunities and can work with multiple agencies to build up work versus managing shorter assignments with travel.

#7 Clients may require additional background checks to enter facilities for safety protocols.

#8 Linguists may be more comfortable working from home using VRI or over-the-phone (OPI) interpreting.

#9 As a country, we’re facing a labor shortage in many professions, and linguists are moving on or migrating to virtual opportunities when possible.

#10 With American Sign Language, the certification body for the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. (RID) ) has revised the national certification written and performance exam. The new written exams have recently been moved out of beta mode however, the performance test is not currently available. The estimated date for the new performance exam is still weeks away from being announced and has impacted interpreter availability in states where RID Certification is required. Certified interpreters are in more demand than ever. We recommend submitting requests with at least 10 business days notice as interpreter schedules are being booked further in advance than usual.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

While this situation continues, here are some things that you can do when you need interpretation services.

#1 Request an interpreter as far in advance as possible. When requesting an interpreter, include the date, time, length of time needed, type of project, etc. if the information is known.

#2 Be prepared to switch from in-person to VRI or OPI interpreting, when possible. As we mentioned above, an interpreter may not be able to be there in person. As a backup, be prepared for a VRI or an OPI meeting instead of in-person. To learn more about how to prepare for VPI, read our blog post about best practices for VRI.


Many challenges are facing in-person interpreting services post-COVID. While in-person interpreting may be the ideal, interpreters may not be available for the original date and time. Our agency will offer recommendations if VRI or OPI would suit your language access needs and will work with requesters to provide interpretation services as close to the actual service date, time, and booking mode as possible.
We provide all types of interpretation services to our clients. Like others, we’re actively recruiting across our entire agency to bring new interpreters into the pipeline. To learn more about our interpreting services, contact us today.