The Archway: Working Closely with Your Interpreter

Many businesses encounter international/intercultural situations every day: patients, employees, clients, and others may need to have their speech interpreted in order to be understood. For some businesses, though, the need for interpretation and cross-cultural interaction is only occasional. For these businesses, having an interpreter as part of your meeting can be novel, and even intimidating! Don’t fear, though: your interpreters are happy to be there, and are seeking to make communication as easy as possible for everyone at your session. This month we wanted to talk about some best practices for working with interpreters, for those who may not work with them every day:


Share as much information as you can about the session before your interpreter arrives: The most helpful thing any office can do for interpreters prior to meeting is to provide pertinent information about the session for the interpreter to review before the meeting: what will be discussed, why the meeting is happening, if there will be the use of any media like slides or videos, etc. This helps the interpreter (and us!) know what matters to expect speaking about, what kind of terminology might be used, and other things that make for a smoother, easier interpretation between all parties involved.
In the session, the parties should speak directly to each other, not the interpreter: Your interpreter is there to facilitate communication between the English speakers and non-English speakers at your session; their goal is to make it feel as though these two parties are having a conversation with each other in the same language. So each party can just speak directly to each other, in each party’s own language, and the interpreter will make sure what was said is understood.
Leave time for the interpreter to complete interpretation between thoughts: Interpreters are quick at moving between two languages, but that doesn’t mean interpretation doesn’t take time! Make sure to leave space for your interpreter to interpret thoughts completely before moving on. In consecutive interpretation situations, this means pausing after every thought or two so that the interpreter can interpret to the other party. In simultaneous interpretation situations, this means speaking slowly and clearly so that the interpreter is able to keep pace with their interpretation.
Keep the speakers to one person at a time: Even when everyone in the room is speaking the same language, we all know how hard it can be to understand what is said when everyone is speaking at once! Make sure that the session is conducted with only a single person speaking at a time; this will not only make things easier for the interpreter, but also ensures that everything that is said in your session is interpreted and understood by everyone else.
Interpretation is a unique skill, and our interpreters are glad to be with you in your session helping you and your clients, employees, and partners communicate well! With the above tips in mind, you can help them be as efficient and helpful as possible for your session!

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