What is Computer Assisted Interpretation (CAI)?

Kate Accetti|September 17, 2021
For over 60 years, there have been efforts to automate the translation and interpretation process. With the development of CAT Tools, or Computer Assisted Translation, linguists can develop glossaries and Translation Memory (TM) which aids and enhances the translation process by reducing the time it takes to complete a translation and catering to client or industry specific terms and concepts. In the language industry, we call this Machine Translation (MT) (text-to-text) and Machine Interpreting (MI) (speech-to-speech).

Computer Aided (or Assisted) Interpretation (CAI) is a technology support tool, more specifically a computer software that assists professional human interpretation. It assists with the preparation and delivery of interpretation, enabling human interpreters to be more effective and organized. Most typically, we see CAI in Simultaneous Interpretation Sessions.

What CAI helps with:

1. Prep for assignments

To date, interpreters have always used glossaries, lists of terms and ad hoc tools, as well as manual processes to prepare for interpretation sessions. CAI’s software helps to streamline and organize this information for interpreters to prepare for their upcoming interpretation session.

CAI at its core functionality supports preparation by creating and managing glossaries and providing tools for memorizing technology. This resource helps eliminate the manual process of term search during live interpretation which otherwise reduces focus on actual interpretation and takes up brain bandwidth.

2. Assistance during the delivery of assignments

During an interpretation session in which an interpreter uses CAI software, the addition of voice recognition and auto-transcription enables interpreters to quickly find resources and reference their term base. Auto-transcription shows numbers and proper names which reduces the need for note-taking. Note-taking in interpreting is a specialized skill that interpreters develop over time and with training; it can be challenging and take years to master. It’s used heavily for consecutive interpretation, but can also be used in simultaneous settings. You can find information about note taking here:

Andrew Gillies, Conference Interpreting on Note-taking during RSI
Consecutive interpretation note taking by InterpreTrain

3. Support post-assignment

After an assignment is complete, interpreters can look back at data, edit and maintain their database and perform quality assessments.

With the exponential increase and prevalence of Remote Interpretation and specifically, RSI, interpreters are relying more and more on technology to support their work. This does not mean that linguists will be replaced by machines anytime soon. In language, context is key. Machines don’t yet have the sophistication and the ability to convey complex concepts and relay certain information the way a human would. Like virtual interpreting booths, online glossaries, speech recognition and virtual platforms, CAI is another tool interpreters use to deliver high quality language interpretation and enhance communication for their listeners.

Resources for further reading:


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