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Community interpreting via video? dolmX shows how it’s done right

It’s official! One of Switzerland’s latest and most innovative community video interpreting platforms is up and running. CEO Anja Höfs explains how dolmX came about, whom it caters to and how the company meets currents needs.

What type of service does dolmX offer and for whom?

dolmX is a platform for community interpreting via video. Community interpreting focuses on enabling people with a migration background to access public services, e.g. in the areas of healthcare, asylum or education. Using our platform, clients can simply indicate when they need an interpreter and for which languages, and they are then automatically “matched” with a person from our pool. The service is then provided digitally via our own video technology, which is integrated into the platform.

What was the reason for starting up dolmX?

During the pandemic, we realised that many things can also be done remotely. Even situations that we always thought had to be conducted face-to-face also worked quite well digitally after a relatively short adjustment period. Then we discovered just how much of the cost of interpreting is related to travel – in fact, it’s not uncommon for organisations to spend more on travel expenses than on the interpreting itself! This led to the obvious conclusion that costs and resources could be better distributed, enabling more interpreting to be carried out overall.

And voilà, dolmX was founded in September 2021 by Lukas Keller from the web development company nadlo, along with Mark Cheetham and Matthias Trümpy from language services provider SwissGlobal Language Services AG.

What was particularly important to you during the development stage of dolmX?

We wanted to develop a product that would have a social impact and address a real problem. The intercultural aspect was a central focus right from the outset. That’s why we didn’t try to develop a platform for interpreting at conferences or lectures, for example, but rather for interpreting in situations where access to essential services such as medical treatment, legal advice, school interviews, etc., is needed.

Making the booking process quick and easy was important to us because it helps to reduce the obstacles involved in using an interpreter. When it comes to hospitals, for example, we’re taking a closer look at how dolmX runs on tablets, because tablets are used more often than laptops in hospital settings.

Feedback from the interpreters is also important to me because they should enjoy using our platform. And since it’s all about successful communication for everyone, we also offer interpreting into and from different sign languages.

What is involved in community video interpreting? What do clients need and how does dolmX satisfy them?

Community interpreting can be viewed as a “trialogue”. The interpreter plays an active and visible role in facilitating understanding between the different parties.

Many clients require quick and hassle-free access to interpreters. If you need an interpreter, they should be available immediately – and this can be achieved via video. That’s why we are currently working on establishing a pool of interpreters that is large enough to fulfil requests on short notice for the most frequently needed languages.

Community video interpreting was already available before the pandemic – although not to the extent that we use it today, of course. Why do you believe this virtual solution is now absolutely indispensable? What are the benefits of video interpreting?

As I said before, during the last two years many people simply realised that a great deal of things can also be done remotely. Some of the scepticism has disappeared, and video meetings are now more familiar to most of us. In addition to that, many hospitals also expanded their digital infrastructure during the pandemic, which means that more devices and better internet coverage are now available.

At the moment, however, video solutions for community interpreting are still used infrequently in Switzerland. We want to change this with dolmX and demonstrate how this solution can be implemented extremely easily and quickly.

There is absolutely no plan to replace all on-site interpreters with video interpretation. That wouldn’t make sense in certain situations. Sometimes it’s important to have a live interpreter on hand, e.g. for very emotional conversations or in situations involving the legal system where records have to be taken and there is a lot of regulation.

With dolmX, our aim is for video interpreting to be used primarily for straightforward conversations that would otherwise incur disproportionate travel expenses, and in situations where staff or relatives would otherwise be recruited as lay interpreters, or where no type of interpreting service would be available at all.

What sort of future do you predict for community video interpreting? What will dolmX be focusing on in the coming months?

Both interpreters and institutions are open to implementing video interpreting in more situations. This is reflected very clearly in the positive response we are currently receiving. I am sure that in 2022 the overall number of video interpreting sessions in Switzerland will be much larger, and the proportion of video interpreting compared to live interpreting will also increase.

Since more than half of all community interpreting assignments are in the healthcare sector, our primary focus in the coming months will be on introducing dolmX in some hospitals as a complement to the on-site interpreters already available. In this context, we are very fortunate to have trifact AG as a partner. It manufactures devices for communication and entertainment in hospitals and is already present in over 160 hospitals in Switzerland.

We are also running pilot projects on the use of dolmX in several prisons.