Top tips for working with a professional interpreter

Do you need an interpreter to help you navigate an international conference or meeting? Working with an interpreter might feel quite daunting at first but with the right interpreter and a bit of preparation, you should have nothing to fear.

Working at a fast pace and in high-stress situations, professional interpreters are skilled communicators, working to listen and understand a message then convert and properly communicate it in another language, all the while taking in the next part of the message. This is why it is important to hire a professional interpreter from a reputable agency if you wish to enjoy a smooth and successful communication experience.

Once hired, here are 4 top tips for getting the best out of your time with a professional interpreter:


1. Establish the interpretation style

Conference and meeting interpretation can take place in three possible ways: simultaneously in a booth, simultaneously behind the delegate (whispering) or consecutively (listening, taking notes, and then relaying the message). The style of interpretation will affect the way in which you engage with your interpreter.

2. Take time and don’t rush

Allow enough time before your event to brief the interpreter about the context, speakers, procedures, and materials so that they are prepared and able to work comfortably within the structures of the meeting. If you are giving a presentation or have access to materials that will be used at the event, share these with the interpreter beforehand. While you will be speaking to your audience (looking at them, directing your comments to them), keep your interpreter in mind when it is your turn to present. Speak clearly and at a reasonable space. If possible, establish eye contact with the interpreter every now and again to ensure all is going well.

3. Think comfort

Interpretation can be hard work. It requires concentration, focus, and dedication. Make sure the interpreter is comfortable – consider things like whether they have a place to sit (in the booth or near you), access to bathroom and cafeteria facilities, bottled water, and, if possible, a room in which they can rest or take messages outside of the event.

4. Make your intentions clear

It’s wise to avoid too many colloquialisms or jokes in your message – these can be confusing to the audience and might not come across as intended, regardless of the skill level of the interpreter. Also remember that it is not the interpreter’s job to convey your emotions – you will do that through your tone and body language. Their job is to translate your words. In the same way, it is not their job to answer questions or alter your message in any way.

A quick aside – it is important to distinguish between an interpreter and a translator. Interpreters work with the spoken word; translators with the written word. To learn more about the differences between these two skills, click here.

Working with an interpreter can feel challenging at times but it is also a great opportunity to communicate with individuals who do not share your mother tongue.

Hire a professional and use the above tips to establish a great working relationship with them – this will ensure that what you say doesn’t get lost in translation.

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