Top Tips For Interpreting

Interpreting is described as the ‘unrehearsed transmitting of a spoken or signed message from one language to another’ (NCSC) and it plays an important role in overcoming language barriers in today’s increasingly globalized world.

With an ever-growing amount of multilingual business taking place, interpreting is increasingly becoming an integral piece of the process Traduttore simultaneo. There are many different situations in which interpreting can help with cross cultural communications, from courtrooms to conferences, presentations to police inquiries.

Interpreting generally falls into three different categories – simultaneous, consecutive and telephone interpreting. In this article we will discuss the differences between each type of interpreting, and discuss how to decide on an interpreter, what to expect when the interpreting process begins and how you can make things easier for yourself and your interpreter.

Here are our top ten tips which will help you with a potential interpreting assignment:

Gathering the facts

Before the interpreting service begins, you should try to gather together all the information about the assignment that you can. Doing so will help you to clarify your own requirements and explain your brief to the interpreter. A good agency providing interpreting services should ask you a series of questions to ensure that you have everything covered.

Choosing quality

Don’t be tempted to employ a bilingual friend or a young language graduate, as they will not have the necessary experience. To be an effective interpreter takes much more than just being able to speak another language. You will need someone who is an expert communicator and can handle high pressure environments with both speed and accuracy. Hiring an experienced professional is highly recommended.

Making the right choice

Try to thoroughly research any provider of interpreting services before agreeing a commission. Ideally you will want to work with professionals with a proven track record of successful interpreting projects with a good knowledge of the relevant industry. They should also be fluent speakers of both languages. An experienced provider of interpreting services should source the most appropriate interpreter for you. If you are in any doubt, ask for references and check out their credentials.

Knowing the styles

There are generally three main styles of interpreting used today. Simultaneous interpretation means that there will be a continuous interpretation running through the entirety of your speech, whereas someone undertaking consecutive interpretation will break what you say into segments, which will then be interpreted. The third option is telephone interpreting which can be set up at very short notice and may be suitable for short discussions with suppliers or customers overseas. Individual interpreters will have a preferred style. Knowing this in advance can really help when you are planning a presentation.

Planning in advance

The further in advance you plan, the smoother it will go on the day. Alongside knowing what you are going to say, it is a good idea to think about how will you pace you speech, and for how long you will be speaking. Remember that when using an interpreter, especially one working consecutively, your presentation is going to take longer. When planning your delivery, try to take this into account and either leave time for interpreting or edit your content down if you have a specific time limit.

Being clear and precise

Making your speech easy to understand will help your interpreter, and your audience, immensely. Try and use short, simple sentences which avoid idioms and words which can easily be misconstrued. It is also a good idea to avoid abbreviations, industry specific jargon and jokes, as these are notoriously difficult to interpret. Always address you audience. Ask them questions directly. Referring to objects each time, rather than saying ‘this’ or ‘that’ is also good practice.

Talking to your interpreter beforehand

It is always a good idea to get in touch with the interpreter prior to the assignment. Try and take the time to establish a rapport. Getting an idea of each other’s working methods will help on the day, as will providing them with all the relevant information and a copy of what you will be saying. You can also discuss any potential issues or sensitivities which may arise. It is good to be aware that an interpreter has a moral obligation to remain neutral. As such it is up to you whether you ask the interpreter to convey everything you say including potentially inflammatory material!

Focusing on the audience

Once interpreting has begun, you should try to face the non-English speaking person as much as possible. Even though you may not speak the same language, eye contact will go a long way to helping the listener feel involved. To a certain extent you can ignore the interpreter and focus on delivering your message. Always have an idea, however, of where your interpreter is positioned so that you do not block their line of sight.

Preparing to be interrupted

Don’t be surprised to find that your interpreter may interject at random points during your talk. This isn’t rudeness. They may want to clarify important information such as the particular meaning of a word or how you have used it. Despite the fact that these interruptions may happen to you, don’t do the same to your interpreter. This can have an impact on your audience’s understanding and ruin the flow of delivery.

Being Reasonable

Remember that even the best interpreter is only human. Interpreting can be an intense process, and extended periods can make things harder, sometimes leading to mistakes and misunderstandings. Making sure you don’t speak too quickly and allow for pauses between sentences will improve the interpreting service. Try and plan your delivery sympathetically. If you are going to be delivering a very long presentation, ensure that the interpreter is comfortable and experienced enough to cope with the length.