How to Work Effectively with an Interpreter

Best Practices when Working with a Professional Interpreter

When you need to communicate with a client, patient, staff member, etc.  in a cross cultural context - look to using a professional interpreting services company.

Here are some practical tips for working effectively with an interpreter.

  • Meet with the interpreter

It is always a good idea to meet with the interpreter before the session to discuss briefly what you will be talking about.

  • Speak directly to the patient or client

Talk to the patient or client directly, and not to the interpreter. Instead of saying: "Ask her what her birthday is", directly ask a non-English speaker using first-person language: "What is your birthday?" A non-English speaker may understand more English than he/she can express. Vocal intonations, facial expressions and body language still convey a great deal of information regardless of language barrier.

  • Make eye contact

Make eye contact with the patient or client, not the interpreter, and maintain it at all times.  Also, speak clearly and distinctly so that the interpreter can understand 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. 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.

  • Sensitive issues

When hiring an interpreter for an interpreting session, be sensitive to cultural and/or religious differences. Consider the situation and the non-English speaker, when deciding whether a male of female interpreter would be appropriate for an interpreting session. In some cultures female interpreters might not feel comfortable interpreting for male clients.

  • Time allocation

Be patient and schedule time appropriately. Interpreting will take longer than speaking directly to an English-speaking client or patient. Think about it as if you need to say everything twice, therefore the amount of time scheduled for the appointment should reflect this.

*Reminder:  Only contract interpreters from an interpreting service, telephone interpreters, trained bilingual staff, staff interpreters, and trained volunteers should be interpreting for you. The following people should not serve as interpreters: family and friends, children under 18 years old, other patients, clients or visitors, and untrained volunteers*

Rapport International is a full-service written translation and spoken interpreting services company with interpreting services available in Lincoln and Omaha Nebraska and surrounding areas, as well as in and around Massachusetts; and translation services available world-wide.  Please contact us for assistance and guidance with your interpreting and translation needs.