by Lefteris Kafatos
When the coronavirus pandemic upended typical work routines in early 2020, many U.S. leaders and diplomats were forced to conduct diplomacy in creative ways. Although many meetings are now held in the virtual realm using platforms such as Zoom, WebEx, and Microsoft Teams, many diplomats still depend on interpreting. The Office of Language Services (LS/I) has ensured that its linguists are still able to serve, especially remotely and virtually. In addition to continuing its consecutive and over-the-phone interpreting services, LS/I offers remote simultaneous interpreting on web-based platforms such as Interactio, Interprefy, KUDO, and ZipDX.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended a videoconference on Iran’s nuclear program in June. Thomas Ronkin, a senior diplomatic interpreter for French and LS/I’s European Branch chief, interpreted for Pompeo during the meeting with French Ambassador to the U.N. Nicolas de Rivière and members of the U.N. Security Council. In addition to social distancing-related challenges during the meeting, Ronkin had to overcome less-than-ideal audio conditions in order to provide Pompeo with the exacting interpretation that U.S. diplomacy requires.
However, virus notwithstanding, some diplomacy still has to be conducted in-person. In mid-June, Pompeo traveled to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, where he met with a delegation led by Yang Jiechi, a member of the Chinese Politburo and director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office. Diplomatic Interpreter for Mandarin Lam Chung-Pollpeter intrepidly interpreted for Pompeo during these crucial talks. Even now, LS/I interpreters like Chung-Pollpeter answer the call to help make sensitive, face-to-face diplomacy possible.
LS/I continues to offer all levels and modes of interpreting, in-person or remotely, to Department of State desks and federal agencies. To inquire about interpreting services, email LS/I.