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Translation App Aims To Make International, Multilingual Conferences Doable In A Virtual Age

File photo / Evie Hemphill
St. Louis Public Radio
Susanne Evens is the founder and CEO of St. Louis-headquartered AAA Translation.

For many of us, mastering muting, unmuting and other basics of virtual work and schooling has proved to be more than enough of a challenge on top of everything else this past year. But not for St. Louisan Susanne Evens.

“I’ve been working remotely for 20 years,” Evens, the founder and CEO of AAA Translation, explained to St. Louis on the Air. “We were well prepared in that way.”

She and her team of translators around the world have been busy in recent months tackling a different challenge: how to make large-scale international gatherings possible, and still understandable, in a virtual age. The COVID-19 crisis has had a dramatic effect on conferences, especially the sort of large-scale events during which interpreters have historically played a critical role.

In partnership with tech company ProLingo, AAA Translation has developed an app that makes live translation doable during virtual, multilingual gatherings: the Conference Interpreting App.

On Wednesday’s show, Evens joined host Sarah Fenske to talk about this innovation and other important work she and fellow translators have been doing during the pandemic.

Pre-COVID-19, Evens’ translators were accustomed to flying around the country and the world to assist with conferences.

“With the pandemic, everything came to a screeching halt. … The global conference industry alone is a $235 billion industry, and St. Louis alone took a $5 million hit in events and conferences,” Evens said.

AAA Translation was already accustomed to working with ProLingo on various technical fronts in recent years, and the COVID-19 crisis prompted the two companies to team up on a virtual solution.

“We’re good in the translation field, and they are the techies, so we formed a partnership where we are going to conquer the world, hopefully,” Evens said.

She explained that users can access the tool as they would any other app by downloading it to a smartphone.

“Every event has a special code that you have to put in, and off you go,” Evens said. “It’s very simple, very easy, very secure.”

As a conference session proceeds, attendees using the app will hear live interpretation in their language.

“We’ve done over 200 events [already], and it all was very seamless,” Evens said.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Evie is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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