Is there an app for… live language interpreting?

11 Juil

Not quite, but it seems that AT&T is getting pretty close with a new feature they have been offering to their cell-phone users since June 18, 2012 called “AT&T On Demand Interpreter powered by Language Line Services”. By pressing *4, US-based AT&T cell-phone users can have access to a live interpreter, 24/7 in 170 languages… in seconds (they say… it probably takes a couple of minutes when there is a sudden high peak of calls which I call the “red zone”. I have an indicator that tells me how busy my language pair is and it can be low-green, high-green, yellow or red. 911 and emergency calls have precedence over regular calls.).

I think it is a great feature, technology is amazing! This will help our clients that are working “in the trenches” to get to an interpreter faster. I believe they used to have to call their home office on their cell-phone, and request to be transferred to an interpreter. Or they would have to dial the 1-800# and go through all the prompts. This makes the process much easier for the social worker helping a family to apply for food stamps in their home, or the nurse giving children their vaccines, or the lactation consultant visiting a new mom a few days after her return home with her newborn.

Despite the intermittent sound issues, I personally love these types of calls. I am able to help a dedicated social worker to do their job more efficiently, or a refugee access the assistance they need to settle in their new home country and get the support they need until they are established. I am sometimes in more difficult situations, with a police officer getting to a crime or misdemeanor scene and trying to make a determination of what happened by questioning the victim and witnesses. Those types of circumstances involve people who are emotional, scared, still under the shock, and the interpreter’s role is also to help calm them down so they can focus on the crucial facts that need to be promptly shared with the officer.

The fact that the phone is passed back and forth (or is put on a poor quality speakerphone which picks up every little noise from the TV entertaining the kids in the background to cars driving by) creates an even greater delay between each statement, at a time when speed is of essence to the well-being of all involved. It also requires an even greater focus by the interpreter, who has to take accurate notes and memorize longer, sometimes confused statements.
For example, interpreting for a person suffering from a mental health issue who goes on and on, babbling about conspiracy theories and who will not pass the phone back to the officer (I have had this happen, the patient had escaped from a psychiatric hospital and managed to leave his country in his hospital gown! Thank goodness the hospital’s contact information was on the gown…).

It really is amazing what technology allied with bilingual expertise can do. When I think that through a phone, I have been in more countries and cities than I can count, and in a hospital pre-op room, in an ambulance, in a call center, in a locked bathroom, in a police car helping an exchange student to find her host family’s house, in a luxurious hotel, in a school at a PTA meeting, in a retail store, at a gas station, in the middle of a highway where the rental car broke down, at a national park with a ranger, at a “lorry” (truck) weighing station, at a police station, consulate, embassy… Through I.T., locations are endless and only limited by landline, internet, cellular phone or satellite coverage.

Excerpt from my I.T. glossary



Disable (to)


Display (to)

Afficher (nom:   écran)

Display settings

Configurations   d’affichage

Display timeout

Interruption   d’affichage


Disque/   Lecteur

Drop current call

Perdre un   appel en cours

Early Termination Fee

Frais de   résiliation anticipée


Oreillette/   Ecouteur


Paiement   facile

Elapsed time

Temps écoulé


Courriel/   courrier électronique/ mél

Enable (to)

Activer/   habiliter

Entry mode

Mode d’entrée

Erase phonebook

Effacer le   répertoire

Error tone

Tonalité   d’erreur

External display

Affichage   externe

Extra settings

Paramètres supplémentaires

Extra tones

Tonalités   supplémentaires


Favoris/   Préférences


Fonctions/   Caractéristiques





Speed dial key

Touche de   numérotation rapide

Fixed dial

Numérotation   fixe

Forward status

Etat de   transfert d’appel

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Foire Aux   Questions (FAQ)

Function keys

Touches de   fonction

Greeting message

Message   d’accueil


Unité a main/   Dispositif portatif


Mains libres



Headset jack

Connecteur   pour casque

Hearing aid

Appareil   auditif

Home page/ screen

Page/ Ecran   d’accueil

Hold current call

Maintenir un   appel en cours



Host routing table

Table de   routage du serveur






Boîte de réception

Local Area Network (LAN)

Réseau   (informatique) locale (LAN)



Lock application

Fonction de   blocage

Lock mode key

Touche de mode   blocage

Lock phone

Bloquer le   téléphone

Main menu

Menu   principale

Master clear

Effacement   général

Master reset

Réinitialisation   générale

2 Réponses to “Is there an app for… live language interpreting?”

  1. Jonathan juillet 11, 2012 à 16:31 #

    You do a great service to your readers by bringing them the latest information in the field of technology and linguistics.

    • FrenchNad juillet 11, 2012 à 16:36 #

      Thanks for your kind words as always and I will make a point to keep up with the latest technological developments in the field 😉


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