19 Apr /12

Top interpreter tips

The following guidelines may prove helpful if you plan on working with a interpreter in the near future
The following guidelines may prove helpful if you plan on working with a interpreter in the near future

The following guidelines may prove helpful if you plan on working with a interpreter in the near future:

1.   Establish ground rules with your interpreter. For example, try to clearly communicate how you want a meeting run, the number of sentences to be translated at a time, the confirmation of jargon or idioms before they are translated, when breaks will be taken, and also seemingly trivial matters like seating arrangements.

2.  Try to brief the interpreter prior to any face to face meetings. Familiarize them with important individuals as well as the subject matter and other potentially important particularities of a meeting or appointment. If there is any specific terminology to be used ask them if they understand it. If you foresee any tricky issues or tense topics, prepare them for it.

3.  If you plan to give a speech or read from a script, give the interpreter a copy of your manuscript. The more familiar the interpreter is with the subject matter, the better a job they will do.

4.  While speaking through an interpreter always engage with your counterpart directly. Even though you cannot understand what is being said, show interest, keep eye contact and remain focused. If you start to converse through an interpreter you lose any chance of building trust, rapport, and confidence.

5.  Try and avoid humor. Most interpreters will agree that jokes do not translate well. If you are giving a speech and plan to start it off with a joke, it is advisable to consult the interpreter first to see if they think it will work.

6.  Plan your time carefully. Conversing through an interpreter makes conversations twice as long. For example, if you are preparing a presentation remember that anything you say will first be translated, so the likelihood is that a one hour presentation will take two. Compensate for this by cutting down your presentation or speaking in shorter, more precise sentences.

7.  Do not rush. Interpreting is a taxing job and it is mentally exhausting. To alleviate the pressure as much as possible, speak slowly and clearly. If you rush the conversation, the interpreter is more likely to become stressed and the quality of the translation may drop.

8.  Interpersonal communication, by its nature, involves emotion. An interpreter should never translate emotions. If the speaker is annoyed this will be obvious in their body language and tone. Never involve the interpreter at a personal level in any discussions, and if you see an interpreter translating your emotions, ask them to stop. The interpreter is there to purely translate what is being said.

9.  Make sure the interpreter understands that they are never to answer questions on your behalf. Even if the answer is simple, the interpreter should still convey every question to you. If an interpreter starts to speak on your behalf, this can have numerous negative consequences, such as undermining your position or even losing face.

10.  Ask interpreters not to change or alter what you say even if they think it may be offensive to your conversation partner. If you plan to talk about a controversial issue let the interpreter know. Before discussing it with an audience announce that what will be said is not the opinion of the interpreter but your own. This then frees the interpreter of feeling uncomfortable and nervous.