How to Work Effectively with your Interpreter

Communication between people who do not speak the same language is more frequent now due to global businesses, instant messaging, social media and ease of travel.

However, with this increased communication comes the need for translation and interpretation.

Many people would find it difficult to attend a work seminar in the UAE, conducted primarily in Arabic, if you are a native English-speaker, or to understand potential clients at trade fairs if you don’t speak their language.

However, missing out on potential business, or networking events, due to language barriers is no longer necessary.

Using an interpreter at business events, conferences, or seminars is commonplace and this quick guide will help you to get the most from the service.


1. Choosing an Interpreter

Selecting an interpreter to work with can at first seem overwhelming; do you need a translation company with a team of interpreters at their command? Are you looking for a single interpreter to work on a sensitive discussion on a one-to-one basis? Or, do you require a medically trained interpreter for hospital interpretations over the phone?

The answers to these questions should help you to narrow the field somewhat. If you require a team of interpreters, with booths and equipment for a multilingual audience, then you should look towards a professional translation service provider that can offer multilingual interpreters who are experts in their fields and have prior experience working in this kind of fast paced environment.

Choosing an interpreter(s) to work with on a larger project is likely to take considerable time and effort, so plan well ahead of any conference/meeting deadline to assure success at your event.

Don’t be nervous about asking for previous client testimonies, evidence of prior experience with the type of service and languages you require, and request confidentiality agreements where needed, as these will give you a greater understanding of the level and abilities of the interpretation team.


2. Plan ahead for Interpretation

Once you’ve selected an interpreter, or translation service provider to work with, you should give them as much information as possible regarding what you require on the day, including languages needed, time scales, any information regarding speakers at events, notes, plans, names, professional roles or positions and any briefs which are relevant.

This information will be used by the interpreter to clarify your requirements, ensuring the event which is being interpreted goes smoothly, and to make certain all equipment, linguists, and so on, are well-prepared in advance.

If your event is a more informal occasion, such as, a trade fair or casual business meeting, where there are limited official plans then it is worth emphasising your objectives so that your interpreter can work with your goals in mind.

It is also worth considering how you would like your interpreter to interpret your words – can they paraphrase? Is an exact wording required? Knowing what you require of your interpreter will ensure they can deliver the best results.


3. During interpretation

A professional interpreter is a neutral person who should not assume answers, influence decisions, or take part in a conversation which is intended to be included within the interpretation.

Their role is to ensure understanding between two or more people who speak different languages and who would otherwise be unable to communicate clearly and effectively.

If you have not worked with an interpreter before it is a good idea to have an informal trial run before the event/interpretation as this will give you a greater understanding of how things will work on the day. You might consider the following points as essential to success during any interpretation:

• Introduce your interpreter – this is a professional courtesy, helping everyone feel more settled, aware and attentive. It also helps to remind everyone in a more populated setting that interpreters are working behind the scenes.

• Time lapse – consider the time delay between speaking/listening and ensure you give plenty of time between long sentences for interpretation to be accurately communicated.

• Speak clearly – even interpreters who are used to working at a fast pace can misunderstand words which are not spoken clearly and concisely. Try to ensure your words are straightforward and to the point, not vague or abstract.

Cultural awareness – is important during interpretation, as even though your interpreter may be familiar with both cultures and languages, some elements aren’t always easy to embody across cultures. For instance, humour, colloquialisms, regional dialects and idioms can easily be misinterpreted, or misunderstood, and often don’t transfer well from one culture to another.

• Speak to your guest, not the interpreter – this may sound obvious but in reality, when dealing with an interpreter, it is all too easy to overlook while communicating. Your interpreter is trained to remain as inconspicuous as possible so direct your gaze towards the person with whom you are conversing, and focus on them when you are listening.

• One person speaking at a time – should be self-explanatory, as an interpreter can only listen to one person at a time. Avoid interruption where possible.


4. After Interpretation

Treating your interpreter as another professional within your business setting will help things go smoothly.

Make sure you thank them for their services (especially if they have been working behind the scenes in booths as is often the case at seminars or large meetings).

If sensitive information has been discussed, as in the case of medical or political interpretations, your interpreter should have signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Professional interpreters are used to dealing with sensitive information or delicate matters, and their reputation depends upon their ability to not discuss any issues directly, or indirectly, involved within their interpretations.

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