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Read our blog for regular updates on the interpreting business and product updates!

Powering Interpreter Intelligence: An Interview With Our CEO

February 11th, 2021 by Interpreter Intelligence

Our CEO Conor Power founded Interpreter Intelligence over a decade ago, so we asked him what it was like to start your own company, why he decided to get involved in the language industry, and what is next for the language service industry and Interpreter Intelligence as a company.

*If you’re hearing-impaired, please click cc to turn on the captions.

Telehealth & The Importance Of Remote Interpreting

February 4th, 2021 by Interpreter Intelligence

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth visits were on the rise. For quick questions or for standard prescription refills, patients could simply chat with their doctors from the comfort of their own homes. Now, with the pandemic, e-visits have become commonplace. One might even say they have become a necessity. Unfortunately, logistical barriers exist for underserved populations, specifically for patients with limited English proficiency (LEP). So how can remote interpreting bridge that crucial communication gap?

Between April 2019 and April 2020, telehealth claims increased by 8,336% (!). About 1 in 7 medical claims were being submitted virtually. It was indicative of a permanent shift to virtual healthcare, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only expedited that process. However, for the 25 million Americans with LEP (approximately 1 in 11 Americans), telehealth is not always as convenient. Logistical issues, especially language barriers, often prevent them from getting the care they need.  

Studies have shown that, on average, people with LEP wait much longer to visit with a physician, and with COVID-19, many healthcare providers have reported that they are seeing even fewer LEP patients than usual. Possible explanations could be that instructions for telemedicine platforms aren’t available in enough languages, that the patient’s languages are not available via a video or telephonic interpreter, or simply because many LEP patients are not aware of their right to a qualified interpreter and other language access provisions at no extra cost. 

There are many important and practical reasons for patients and physicians to communicate effectively. Physicians need to obtain accurate medical histories, and patients need to understand the physician’s instructions. When the language barrier is not addressed effectively, preventative services can be delayed, resulting in the exacerbation of chronic conditions and the deterioration of acute symptoms. Other implications of this barrier include inappropriate use of medication, longer hospital stays, and poor patient satisfaction.

Investing in linguistically appropriate healthcare has also proven to be a win-win situation for all. When healthcare providers use qualified medical interpreters, fewer errors are made, fewer unnecessary tests are ordered, and the overall quality of care improves. It reduces costs and it literally saves lives. Additionally, appropriate linguistic care has also been instrumental in limiting the spread of COVID-19 across LEP communities. Aside from LEP communities, there is one other major community that struggles with linguistic barriers in healthcare.

The deaf and hard of hearing community require special attention because sign language is a three-dimensional language. When it is reduced to a two-dimensional screen, much is lost in translation. Deaf patients may also need two interpreters. Aside from an ASL interpreter, deaf patients may also require a certified deaf interpreter to translate non-ASL languages to ASL. A hearing ASL interpreter will then translate this to the provider. In short, the healthcare industry faces many challenges in this virtual transition, but how can they overcome them?

Healthcare providers that use interpreting technology platforms such as Interpreter Intelligence have all the tools they need to provide high-quality linguistic services to their patients. Interpreter Intelligence offers fully HIPAA-compliant remote interpreting solutions, either over the phone, or via video conferencing. Third parties can be dialed in on the spot, and any relevant information can be collected and documented during the call via our customizable reference fields,  completely tailored to the needs of your organization. To learn more about our remote interpreting features, schedule a demo by clicking the orange button above.

How The Senate Race Might Affect Language Access

December 7th, 2020 by Interpreter Intelligence

It took some time, but we now know Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States, which begs the question: how will a Biden administration affect language access and employee classification? A while back, we wrote a blog post about how the Trump presidency has affected language access, but what will be different when Biden goes into office? Well, turns out we shouldn’t necessarily be looking at the presidency for answers, instead, we should look at the US Senate race.

The Senate is the government body that has the power to approve or disapprove treaties negotiated by the House of Representatives, which currently holds a democratic majority. However, as long as the Senate is controlled by republicans, it is hard for democrats to pass any legislation. Either way, whether the Senate remains Republican or whether it’s the Democrats that regain control, there will be major consequences for the language industry.

Control over the Senate is still undetermined and will not be clear until at least January 2021. Right now, the Republican party has 50 Senate seats, and the Democratic party has 48. The two run-off elections in Georgia will determine which party will end up holding the majority. If the Senate is tied 50-50, then VP Kamala Harris would be the deciding vote for democratic control. So let’s explore how a republican majority would affect language access, and how a democratic majority would affect it.

Employee Classification

One major issue still in contention is employee classification. The “Protecting the Right to Organize Act” (PRO Act) amends the National Labor Relations Act, which reclassifies all independent contractors as employees. If the Senate remains in Republican hands, it is unlikely the PRO Act will move forward in Congress. The PRO Act would allow independent contractors to join unions, and then collectively bargain for pay, benefits, and working conditions. Given that California Proposition 22 (which exempts app-based drivers from employee status) was passed overwhelmingly, it is clear much is left to be said around employee classification, and its course will depend heavily on the outcome of the Senate race.

Language Access in Healthcare

The second issue is language access in healthcare. The state of Texas has sued to overturn the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). It is now up to the Supreme Court to decide whether or not it will be overturned. Although it seems unlikely, a Republican-controlled Senate would likely not restore Obamacare if it were overturned. The Affordable Care Act considers language access a medical necessity, reimbursable under Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare plans. If overturned (and not restored by a Republican Senate), then language support in healthcare will no longer be considered a necessity, and no longer be covered.

JNCL – NCLIS

For more information, please consult the JNCL-NCIS, the Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies. They analyze federal and state legislation, provide policy recommendations to decision-makers on Capitol Hill, and track the budget & appropriations process in Congress. If you feel passionate about an inclusive language policy in America, check out their website to see how you can contribute to a multilingual future for America.

Sponsoring Interpreter Education Online’s Second Virtual Conference

December 4th, 2020 by Interpreter Intelligence

Interpreter Intelligence was once again a platinum sponsor for Interpreter Education Online’s Virtual Conference. IEO is an organization that provides quality training and testing for interpreters, helps its clients maintain quality assurance, and is committed to upholding industry standards. Interpreter Intelligence is honored to be involved with IEO’s second virtual conference, which focused on interpreting and translation during the pandemic and post-election.

The conference brought together expert speakers from language companies, language associations, political organizations, and hundreds of interpreters and translators. Together, we discussed the current state of the language industry, and how we can all adapt to the current market and political landscape.

Click here to see the full conference program. To see a full recording of the conference, please contact the team at Interpreter Education Online. Again the backdrop of the conference, Jinny Bromberg, founder and president of Bromberg & Associates, and Conor Power, founder and CEO of Interpreter Intelligence, reflect on their long and thriving partnership in the video below.

 

Machine Translation: What’s The Latest?

October 28th, 2020 by Interpreter Intelligence

Machine Translation (MT) is the process by which computer software is used to translate a text from one natural language (such as English) to another (such as Spanish). Long disregarded as a buzzword, machine translation has come a long way since it was first introduced in the 1950s, and its evolution has been exponential. Let’s take a few minutes to go over the latest developments in machine translation, and let’s have a look at what the tech giants have been up to lately.

How does Machine Translation work?

Generally, there are three approaches to Machine Translation. The first approach is Rule-based Machine Translation (RbMT). This approach relies on countless algorithms based on the grammar, syntax, and phraseology of a language. The second approach is Statistical Machine Translation (SMT). With lots of parallel texts becoming available, SMT developers learned to pattern-match reference texts to find translations that are statistically most likely to be suitable. Then there is Neural Machine Translation (NMT). NMT uses machine learning technology to teach software how to produce the best result. Many MT providers have switched to NMT, as it is deemed the most promising, most scalable and eventually, most accurate of the three, although some providers utilize a hybrid form as well, combining multiple approaches.

Silicon Valley & Big Tech

For Silicon Valley’s tech giants, machine translation is an indispensable tool to be able to translate the exponentially increasing amounts of online content. Google and Apple have been investing heavily in MT research lately, especially to support their virtual assistants, ‘Google Assistant’ and ‘Siri’ respectively. However, the biggest challenge for Google, Apple, Facebook, etc. is to level the playing field for low-resource languages. Machine learning (ML) models need to be trained, and you need lots of data in order to do so. For rare languages, there simply isn’t enough data to train these machine learning models properly. Consequently, English is used as a ‘pivot language’. In other words, the source language is first translated into English, and then into the target language, because it is easier to train ML models this way. However, Facebook recently boasted a major breakthrough. Facebook’s latest NMT model was designed to avoid English as the intermediary (or pivot) language between source and target languages. Facebook called it the “culmination of years of Facebook AI’s foundational work in machine translation.”

China Joins The Race

Meanwhile, as part of the Chinese government’s three-year action plan to advance the country’s AI technology, including speech recognition and machine translation, Chinese tech giants Alibaba, WeChat and TikTok have been stepping up their MT efforts as well. Alibaba is working on an NMT engine which mimics the human language learning process. They call it “self-paced learning”, and it supposedly vastly improved the accuracy of the engine’s translations. Although these Chinese companies are doing exciting research into MT, Western governments have criticized Chinese MT offerings because they suspect it to be a way for the Chinese government to collect data on users outside of China. Famously, for this reason, the Trump administration said it would ban apps like WeChat and TikTok in the United States, although for now, a judge has blocked the order before it would have gone into effect. Whether Trump’s ban was motivated by security concerns or by a political agenda, it goes to show how important MT is in the fight for technological superiority. Let’s just hope this “technological cold war” ends up benefiting the consumer in the long run.

“As a Language Service Provider, should I be using MT?”

For Language Service Providers, MT is used to augment productivity of their translators, cut costs, save time, and provide post-editing services to clients. In 2016, SDL, one of the largest translation companies in the world, announced it translates 20 times more content with MT than with human teams. So yes, if you want to provide translation services at scale, it’s time to hop on the MT train, if you haven’t already.

Any thoughts, corrections or questions concerning this blog post? Let us know!

Language Services: Avoiding The Race To The Bottom

September 29th, 2020 by Interpreter Intelligence

The race to the bottom refers to a competitive situation where a company, state, or nation attempts to undercut the competition’s prices by sacrificing quality standards (often defying regulation), or reducing labor costs. It is a phenomenon the language services industry is unfortunately not immune to. In some markets, the language services industry’s deregulation has led to low pricing at the expense of poor quality and, ultimately, poor outcomes for the end-consumers, opening the door to liability on the part of the provider.

Deregulation: Pros & Cons

In moderation, deregulation can be a good thing. It fosters innovation, competition, increased consumer choice, and lowers costs for the end-user. For knowledge-based services, however, deregulation can prove to be risky. Think about it: would you rather underpay for a bad interpreter, or overpay for a good interpreter? With proper regulation, you’d never have to make that decision. You’d always pay a fair price for a good interpreter. Seems obvious, right? So why is this a problem in the language services industry?

Globalization & The Lowest Bidder

When a single industry spans different markets, countries, and continents, inevitably, challenges will arise. Standardization of training, education and certification is extremely difficult, which means quality assurance is inconsistent. And in the legal or medical field for example, laws vary to the extent that standardization is not even possible. Also, because the language services industry is as globalized as it is, wages and pricing vary substantially as well. When prices are driven down, there is simply no motivation for certification and compliance tracking, and it is definitely not economically feasible. With technological advancements especially, less reputable language service companies have increased market access, so they can gain ground at the expense of the consumer.

The Race To Standardization

So how do we standardize certification, training and education on a more global scale? Regulatory bodies such as governments and labor movements need to establish a classification system, so an absence of certain certifications or standards will allow these bodies to misclassify certain providers. Ideally, a tiered system outlining certification, education and experience can establish levels within language service delivery. Organizations such as ISO and ASTM for example have well-documented operating standards. Consequently, pricing can be made flexible in accordance with the quality of the service. These levels can then be included in RFPs so customers are aware of the trade-off between cost and quality. 

Pragmatic Challenges

Global standardization is of course not without its challenges. Continuous sourcing, vetting and quality control requires a lot of effort, organization, and more importantly, resources. Until standards are elevated on a consistent basis, these extra costs will often end up on the end-client’s invoice. It’s important to realize this will always be a gradual change. Also, some language combinations are so rare that setting a benchmark just isn’t realistic. If the supply of a certain language is so scarce, then the traditional supply and demand model will inevitably apply.

Education & Advocacy

The path to standardization in the language services industry is paved through education, advocacy and labor organization. Numerous associations, coalitions and organizations exist with the aim to elevate the language services industry, and to cement its place within the knowledge economy. The more policy makers and customers are aware of the level of difficulty and skill that is involved with providing language services, the more resources will be available to assure the quality of language services, and to avoid the race to the bottom. If you want to get involved, you’ll find a list of organizations below that are doing important work to elevate the industry.

Interpreter Intelligence: Our Role

As a language technology provider, it is our responsibility to provide tools that allow organizations to track interpreter certification and employment classification, tools that allow organizations to send price quotes, tools that can capture pricing and wages depending on certification, and generally, tools that can streamline the language service delivery process so your organization can save costs, which in turn, allows for more resources to nurture certification and standardization of the industry.

Resources

Association of Language Companies
Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California (CoPTIC)
JNCL-NCLIS
Language Policy and Programs
Critical Link (CA)
National Standards for Community Interpreting (CA)
Ontario Guidelines for Community Interpreting
Slator / Nimdzi / Common Sense Advisory