Eric Bauwelinck: Supporting Organizations with High-End Interpretation

Eric Bauwelinck
Eric Bauwelinck | CEO | Mastervoice

Interpreters are people who see language in a way that others don’t, and for them, the sky is the limit. Knowing various languages entails a thorough understanding of humanity’s culture, and expanding this understanding throughout the world, Eric Bauwelinck reshaped the face of the interpreting industry.

Starting as a freelance conference interpreter and eventually launching a company that conducts online and onsite interpreting, Eric leads as the CEO of Mastervoice, addressing the necessity of online interpreting for many years, accomplishing the challenging task by transitioning from onsite to online interpreting.

Mastervoice promotes globalization by providing experienced interpreters to international organizations with an established track record of reliability and expertise with a human touch.

CIO Look caught up with Eric to learn in-depth about his experience and journey throughout the industry.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Briefly describe your professional journey up until now.

Language has always been a true passion throughout my life and career. After graduating as a translator-interpreter in 1990, I started my career as a freelance conference interpreter. In 1998, I founded Mastervoice to support international organizations with simultaneous interpreting, including audiovisual support in my mission as a total language solutions provider.

What challenges did you face along the way?

Before the outbreak of the health crisis, we had detailed procedures in place to support meetings with simultaneous onsite interpretation and audiovisual support. It has been very challenging to find the right balance between the expectations of qualified conference interpreters and the service requirements of international organizations in a changing market environment, which is critical to seize opportunities in the post-Covid era of hybrid meetings. My background as a conference interpreter was a great asset to achieving this balance and offering added value to meeting planners and interpreters alike.

What significant impact have you brought to the Translation and Localization industry?

As an early pioneer in the market of simultaneous interpreting, Mastervoice has been promoting the benefits of online interpreting since 2008 with campaigns in 2012, resulting in the publication of a book on the transformation from onsite to online interpreting in 2016. The health crisis proved to be the greatest accelerator of this transformation. We were ready and well prepared to forge strategic alliances with language technology partners offering reliable remote simultaneous interpreting solutions.

Tell us about Mastervoice and its foundation pillar.

Our unique service model is built on a core interpreter management system with integrated quality management, qualification procedures, and interpreter selection criteria based on proven expertise with automated workflows tailored to the specific needs of multilingual conferencing. My background as a conference interpreter in more than 3,000 meetings in the past 30 years enabled me to offer this interpreting service model based on best practices, business ethics, fair competition, industry standards, and our core mission to exceed client expectations in interpreting.

How does Mastervoice promote workforce flexibility, and what is your role in it?

Our internal workforce management has undergone great changes to meet the fast-changing demands of the interpreting market in terms of scalability and the ability to adapt to these changing circumstances. Instead of relying on isolated internal departments, Mastervoice values multi-skilled project coordinators to support meeting planners in their complete customer journey from a request for proposal to final delivery.

Selection and qualification of freelance conference interpreters is based on an adaptive interpreter sourcing model linked to client history, specific qualification criteria, and last but not least, client ranking based on proven performance.

As founder and owner of Mastervoice, my role is to consult clients on total language solutions with expertise in remote simultaneous interpreting. I see it as my mission to demonstrate the value of multilingual conferencing to our key stakeholders: our end clients, our audiovisual partners, our conference interpreters, and our employees.

What is your take on technology’s importance, and how are you leveraging it?

Language technology solutions, and in particular remote interpreting applications, have proven to be a critical factor since the outbreak of the health crisis, but also considering the increasing importance of Sustainable Development Goals as formulated by the United Nations Global Compact. Online meetings are essential contributions to a greener environment with fewer people on the move for meetings, but also to international exchange, and cooperation.

What will be the next significant change in the Simultaneous Interpretation industry, and how are you preparing for it?

Besides the evident contribution to a greener meeting industry, remote simultaneous interpreting demonstrated clear benefits in cost and time efficiency for interpreters and participants in international meetings. At the same time, videoconferencing also exposed the limitations of a meaningful exchange versus traditional face-to-face encounters. An indefinite number of formerly highly interactive meetings gradually turned into watch-and-listen-only webinars without genuine human-to-human involvement. Meeting technology providers must meet essential expectations in human communication to earn a winning edge and should focus more on life-like presence with eye-to-eye and face-to-face human encounters, even in a virtual, augmented, or mixed reality.

To prepare for this virtual transformation, Mastervoice has partnered with world-leading audiovisual partners and strategic language technology providers to accomplish our core mission of empowering global understanding, exchange, goodwill, and cooperation.

What are your goals in the upcoming future?

The ongoing global crisis places a heavy burden on the world economy, and this will also impact the meeting and language industry at some point in time. Global understanding and goodwill remain fundamental in international communication. Our goal is to support global understanding by speaking to the hearts and minds of decision-makers with native speakers as cultural ambassadors in all world languages.

What advice would you like to give the next generation of aspiring business leaders in the language industry?

Linking technology to human resources is not sufficient to make a meaningful difference in the language industry today. High-end language technology must meet human expectations in terms of connectivity, affordability, and reliability. This is a labor-intensive and highly competitive environment that is not for the faint-hearted. You can make a difference, however, by focusing on niche solutions for niche markets with a qualified pool of expert linguists and by adopting the latest solutions in applied language technology with reliable technology providers. This was our own successful approach in very challenging times.