Work Effectively With Our Interpreters
One of the greatest rewards for our interpreters is the knowledge that the parties understood each other and that communication took place. Being a cultural and linguistic professional, they play a paramount role in making sure this happens. You, however, can also do many things to help the interpreter achieve this goal. Below is based on our personal experience and observations while interpreting consecutively for professionals in different fields.
Meet with interpreter
It is always a good idea to meet with the interpreter before the session to discuss briefly what you will be talking about. Explain the purpose of the meeting and go over any materials that will be used.
Speak directly to the other party
Talk to the other party directly and not to the interpreter. Instead of saying: “Ask him what his birthday is”, you should directly ask a non-English speaker using first-person language: “What is your birthday?”
Make eye contact with the other party and maintain it at all times – not the interpreter!
Make sure you speak clearly and distinctly so that interpreter can understand you. The best place for interpreter is somewhere close to you and the other party or between the two of you.
Pause for interpretation
Do not forget to pause after 3-4 sentences to give the interpreter an opportunity to interpret what you have just said. This is for your own benefit: the more you speak without giving the interpreter a moment to interpret, the greater is the chance that the interpreter will miss some important details.
Avoid acronyms, slang, and jargon
Avoid using acronyms, slang or specific terms that the interpreter might not know. Often a “short” acronym stands for an entire concept that must be fully explained and translated in a foreign language. Instead of using acronyms, use full words and explanations.
Reduce use of jokes and idioms
In your conversation try not to use too many jokes, puns or idioms unless they are rehearsed with the interpreter ahead of time. They are very hard to interpret as they are specific to a particular culture and in a different culture they might mean a completely different thing or could be nonsensical.
Avoid side conversations
Have only one person speak at a time and avoid side conversations. If you do not want something to be interpreted, do not say it! This may produce a negative impression on the other party.
Some concepts you might want to talk about may not even exist in the other language. Sometimes it might take a whole sentence to interpret one word, as the interpreter will have to use explanation to interpret your term or concept. Do not expect a word-by-word interpretation.
Subject matter knowledge
When you need an interpreter to interpret specialized subjects, make sure that the interpreter knows and understands the subject matter. Being fluent in a foreign language does not automatically make a person knowledgeable in many subjects. As an example, just being fluent in English has not helped me to better understand Physics. Interpreters cannot know terminology in all fields.
Be patient and allocate your time appropriately. Interpreting will take time. Think about it as if you need to say everything twice.
Sometimes an interpreter might stop you and ask a question if he/she needs clarification. It is normal and acceptable; sometimes even necessary to make sure that the parties understand each other. Try to say the same thing in different words, or rephrase your question. If, however, interpreter interrupts you too much, asks too many questions or is uncertain in what he/she says, you might want to question whether or not you hired a qualified interpreter.
It is our responsibility to do an excellent job for you. You, however, can assist us in many ways to do so. Both you and the interpreter should work together as partners in achieving the same goal. Remember, when your interpreter looks good, you look good too, and vice versa!