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Well then, let’s turn to remote research

Part 3: Simultaneous Interpretation of Remote Interviews


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Nina Schacht

a year ago | 5 min read

As you can see, we are really starting to go down the rabbit hole of meticulous planning when it comes to remote research. You have thoroughly prepared your remote Interviews (and read through my tips & tricks for the technical preparation (check it out) as well as how to share stimulus material during a remote interview (check it out)?

Great. Time to take the next step!

Do not get lost in translation

Here is your next challenge: You have a remote research project coming up but either your client does not speak the interview language or you have commissioned a project in another country and would like to follow the interviews.

One way or the other, you do need a voice over in a language your client / you understand. To make it more convenient for this article, I am focusing a scenario I actually had to solve last week: I conducted remote interviews in German and my English-speaking client from the UK wanted to watch & listen.

Again, there are different solutions out there. This time, I am sharing my life hacks on how to tackle this challenge. In case you do have another angle or potentially even an easy technical option — please reach out to me. I am more than interested to learn.

Have a professional interpreter on your side

Before going into the three options, I assume that you booked a professional language interpreter for your real-time translation. It is an advanced craft (which I admire a lot)! So even if someone is fluent in both languages you need, I would still recommend to work with a partner who is trained in simultaneous interpretation. Being ‘just’ bilingual is not enough of a qualification.

Additionally, as already mentioned, I am a big fan of the web conferencing platform Zoom. As such, my examples are referring to features available in Zoom. If you are using a different tool, you may find similar features in your preferred platform.

Option 1: Two parallel audio channels

You build an audio-work-around where listeners to the live interpretation dial into two different channels in parallel.

How to set it up:

  • You set up your remote call for the interview (channel 1).
  • You & your interview participant dial in with audio & video on.
  • Your client & the interpreter dial in as well. However, they mute themselves & turn off the camera as silent listener and observer
  • Open a parallel second channel (e.g. another Zoom call, FaceTime, good old landline, etc). Please test your setup upfront to make sure that the two channel work smoothly in parallel… and that not one software overrules the other in terms of audio and access to the camera.
  • Interpreter & client dial into the second channel. In this second channel, the interpreter (who can hear you in the first channel) gives the live interpretation. Your client observes the interview in video channel 1 and receives the translation in audio channel 2.

Advantages: It is feasible in real-time and actually quite easy to set-up.

Disadvantages: You need to have a fallback plan or at least be prepared in case the second channel does not work. As you are conducting the interview yourself, you cannot take care of technical facilitation details while you are interviewing.

Therefore, I strongly recommend that client & interpreter exchange contact data (e-mail, phone number) so that they can quickly reconnect in case the default second channel breaks down.

Additionally, I would recommend that the interpreter also records an audio file of their interpretation. You might need it later.

Option 2: Become a producer

Actually, this is the solution I chose for my last project: I put a new audio track under the original video recording and basically dubbed the recording. My client did not dial into the call but received a video file with the English audio a bit after the interview.

Steps you need to take:

  • Conduct your interview and have the interpreter produce a .mp4 recording of their translation in real-time. Doing this in real-time is important so that original recording and translated audio track seamlessly line up later.
  • After finishing the interview, your interpreter sends the audio track with the required language.
  • Then you can use iMovie for the final step: Remove the original (German) audio track and add the interpretation to the original video.

Sounds complicated? I am not a techie, however, I found it quite easy and my client was really happy about this solution.

Advantages: You are not stressed during your interview whether everything works out technically. Additionally, you are able to deliver an output that is quite professional and includes visuals as well as audio.

Disadvantages: It is not live… I cannot think of another disadvantage.

Option 3: Sole focus on the audio

Depending on how much your client needs the visual impression of the interview, there is also a very easy fix.

When recording your interview with Zoom, you receive a video file with audio track and another .mp4 file with just the audio recording. You can send the audio file to your interpreter and have them record a new audio file in the language needed.

Or again, you ask your interpreter to dial into the call and create an audio file in real-time (that even works with the dictation function in your smartphone. No need for a complicated technical set-up).

Advantages: Again, you are not stressed about technical facilitation during your interview and whether everything works out. It goes very quickly and you can send out the audio file right after the interview.

Disadvantages: It is not live and your client is missing the visual cues (facial expression, body language or things potentially shown into the camera at certain points in the interview). Additionally, it is quite tiring to listen to an audio file of an interview for one hour.

Before I forget: If you decide against an interpreter, do not blindly trust into your participant’s foreign language skills

This remark is based on experience with German interview participants. I once had a study where my client wanted me to conduct the interview with my German participants in English. Well, thinking about it, I might write an entire article of the pros and cons of asking your interview partner talking to you not in their native language. But that would be way out of line here.

However, my recruiters asked my interview partner just “Would you dare to conduct the interview in English?” — Relying on this personal assessment actually turned my interviews into a disaster. People just wanted to help, though the learnings from these interviews were very superficial and shallow as the language skills were not good enough for in-depths conversation.

Therefore, I recommend to have an independent assessment of the language skills (e.g. being raised bilingual, having lived in respective country for a certain time, language spoken in business context, holding a degree from a university in the respective country, language assessment by your recruiting partner, etc.).

Again, you do have several options on how to tackle real-time interpretation. Choose wisely and watch out for more tips & tricks to come or just follow me on LinkedIn.

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Created by

Nina Schacht

CEO NIDOS Academy

Nina is a qualitative researcher with over 15 yrs. of experience. She has a track record of working on the key accounts of some of the largest FMCG players worldwide. In recent years she stepped into UX research, built UXR departments for start-ups and coaches UXR beginners. Design Thinking is part of her toolbox as well.


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