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New Telephone Interpreting Service Unveiled in India
Posted by Nataly Kelly on October 5, 2010  in the following blogs: Business Globalization, Interpreting, Best Practices
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Idea Cellular, a major wireless telephony company in India, announced a new telephone interpreting service for 16 of the 438 living languages spoken in the country. The company developed the service, called the Language Helpline, after its research revealed an untapped domestic market -- Indians who were struggling to communicate with each other, especially when moving from one region to another.

The announcement comes off the heels of another successful launch from the company, its "Break the Language Barrier" campaign, which suggested that their mobile phone could assist people speaking different languages.

When we saw the announcement about the telephone interpreting service, we couldn't help but notice a few parallels between Language Helpline in India and Language Line Services in the United States:
  • The target market. Language Line began in response to a domestic need for people who speak different languages to communicate with each one another. Of course, the major difference with Language Helpline is that the languages are native to India, while the U.S. demand stems from the need to communicate across immigrant languages -- including English.
  • The telecom link. Some might consider a mobile communications provider to be an unlikely candidate to take an interest in the language services market, but AT&T successfully backed Language Line for many years, and that business unit in its current form (Language Line Services) is now one of the largest language service providers (LSPs) in the world. As consumer spending power in India continues to explode, Idea Cellular's new interpreting business shows great potential to grow -- especially as other companies in India see the value of providing on-demand language support.
  • The name. The combination of "language" and "line" seems to find its way into telephone interpreting provider names quite frequently. Language Line Services acquired its similarly-named former competitor in the United Kingdom, but other entities exist with similar names throughout the world, such as the language line run by New Zealand's government.
Telephone interpreting exists -- in some shape or form -- in nearly every major economy. We've uncovered providers of phone-based interpretation in Belarus, China, Korea, Japan, Russia, and many other places throughout the world. Our research has shown that telephone interpreting has existed in India for several years -- companies like Lyric Labs have been offering the service for quite some time.

However, as a large organization with greater reach than the average LSP, Idea Cellular may just be onto something big. In language-rich India, polyglots abound and multilingualism is a common part of daily life, so language services are often taken for granted. As we found in "India Beyond English," our study of 505 global websites showed that most companies fail to market to Indian consumers in their preferred languages.

So, a company headquartered in India that truly understands its home market, helps bridge language barriers -- and importantly, has the marketing momentum to back up its offerings -- can serve as a catalyst for recognizing India's linguistic diversity as a way to further differentiate services and products not just in telecommunications, but in many other vertical markets.


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Keywords: Interpreting, Interpreting technologies, Telephone interpreting, Translation

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