Interpreter Live is a new service that helps travelers abroad get out of sticky language situations where the language gap is in desperate need of immediate closure.
How Interpreter Live works is fairly simple. It is designed as a calling card system, where you purchase pre-paid minutes online and receive a PIN number and calling card to use when you call into the hotline. The hotline itself is a local UK access number, and was created with travelers in the European countries in mind.
The Interpreter Live website offers these step-by-step instructions for how to use their service:
When you need language help abroad call our main number which you can see at the top of this page.
Follow the voice prompts – to speak to an interpreter you will be asked to input your unique PIN number given to you when you purchased your pre-paid minutes. If you have an account you normally do not need to enter a PIN – if you are calling from a telephone registered to your account then you will be forwarded automatically.
You will then be asked to input the relevant language code – a 1-3 digit code represents a language and common codes are provided on cards and on our languages page. If you need any assistance or don’t know the code you require simply press 0 for an operator.
The line will then go quiet while we connect you to the correct interpreter – please be patient, this part of the connection typically takes between 10 and 60 seconds.
The interpreter will answer the phone in English and introduce themselves.
Explain to the interpreter your situation and how they can help you – for example “I am in a taxi in Madrid and the driver does not understand where it is I want him to take me”.
Once the interpreter has all the information from you they need, he or she will ask you to pass your phone to the person you wish to speak to, and they will communicate for you.
By passing the phone back and forth between yourself and the person you are trying to communicate with, the interpreter will be able to ensure that everyone is understood.
As soon as you are happy that your problem has been resolved and everyone has communicated successfully, simply say farewell to the interpreter and hang up!
Interpreter Live was created by former British Army bomb disposal officer, Lee Mears after encountering language problems while serving in Kosovo, Oman, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and travelling through Mali, Congo and Angola.
“I’ve had first-hand experience with language barriers and cultural divides and wanted to offer a service that gives complete peace of mind for those visiting countries where they can’t speak the language,” Lee Mears explained.
This is a great service for those to use in an emergency, but the downside is that you would need an international cell phone or one that has service in Europe. Most cell phones in the U.S. do not have that capability, and the ones that do are a bit pricey. Also, although Interpreter Live does not add any further charges to your phone bill (like a phone card), you will be charged your normal telephone call rate, including roaming charges.
So be aware of how much your phone company charges for calls in other countries prior to using this service. There are many variables that may end up costing you more than you thought. But then again, if you are lost in the back woods in Germany, trying to find your way to your hostel, and the only person you come in contact with for miles doesn’t speak your language, it may be worth it.