No matter how many people listen, things are much better the fewer people talk. Waverly says the same thing. Some of the most impactful use cases, according to the company, are multilingual shareholder meetings that allow analysts to hear executive comments in their native language and religious services that can be offered to a multilingual congregation. In both cases, most of what is talked about comes from a single person. The forum can also be effective for global teams that meet regularly via video chat, if the teams are small and have some basic level of familiarity with each other. That can also help make pregnancy breaks a little less awkward.
The quality of the interpretation depends largely on the clarity of the speaker, as is the case with most voice translations. The clumsier someone is, the less coherent the translation will be. The forum also made some strange decisions with some of its translations during my testing. One speaker made reference to “one-on-one” meetings and Forum curiously translated this as “12:59.” However, most of the time I was at least able to get a clear idea of what was being said. The forum isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely good enough.
However, Forum is definitely not cheap. The app requires a monthly subscription (no long-term commitment) with several different tiers available, each offering a different number of total minutes and participants in a session. For $25, you get 3 hours of interpretation for up to 5 participants. For $60, you get 10 hours with 20 participants, and for $130 you get 25 hours with 50 participants. If you need more than that, Waverly says she’ll set you up with a custom setting.
There is also a free tier, useful for very casual users, which offers 25 minutes per month for three participants. The free tier is also limited to 10 total sessions per month, while all paid tiers include unlimited sessions. (Side note: Your minutes count only when you’re actively speaking. Listeners don’t spend minutes listening to translated audio, and in fact, you can use the app without even signing up if you want to just be a passive listener and never plan to speak.)
If you only need occasional translations from multiple speakers and can persuade everyone in your group to download an app and join a session at the same time, Waverly Forum is a good tool to have in your arsenal. The free version may be sufficient for most, and I hope that most users who need the paid versions have some form of corporate support to cover their not insignificant cost. At the highest level, a sustained subscription equates to more than $1,500 per year, which is a huge investment in something you don’t even own. And that is per user.
Again, it’s important to emphasize that Forum is really designed as a solution for multiple users, each with their own device. If you’re simply trying to catalyze a one-on-one bilingual conversation (i.e. 12:59) through a single device, it’s not a good option.