Working with interpreters guide

Helping you get the most of our interpreting services

In order to help you understand what kind of information we need from you and what you need to consider before the event, as well as how to work with your interpreter(s) during the event, we have put together a guide to interpreting services. Below you will find a shorter version.

Whether you are a business person negotiating an important contract with a foreign partner, a solicitor whose client does not speak the language, a patient admitted to hospital in a foreign country or a speaker at an international conference, you will need interpreting services.  In all these cases, there are some things you should know and that will help you plan and make the most of the experience. Some of the pieces of advice below will not apply to all cases, as each situation is different, but we have tried to cover as many aspects as possible.

Before the event

  • My secretary is bilingual. I’ll ask her to help during the meeting.” Being bilingual does not mean that a person can automatically transfer meaning between the two languages. It’s like saying that anyone who has two hands can play the piano. Well, they can. Badly. Interpreters are skilled professionals, with hundreds of hours of study and practice under their belts, who can make sure your message is transmitted flawlessly and communication is smooth.
  • “Any interpreter who speaks the language will do”. Not exactly. Like in many professions, interpreters are specialised in different areas: legal, medical, financial, business etc. Would a brain surgeon operate on your heart? Probably not. That is why you need to hire the right type of interpreter.  If you don’t know where to start, give us a call or get in touch and we can advise.
  • “I need a Portuguese interpreter”. You need to be a little more specific than that. Do you need someone who speaks European Portuguese or Brazilian Portuguese? Although variants of the same languages, there are enough differences between the two to warrant the question.
  • “What is the difference between different types of interpreting?” You can read more about each type of interpreting (what it is and when it is used) on our Interpreting services page. If you tell us the details of the event (setting, number of attendees, languages needed etc.), we will be able to advise accordingly.
  • “This conference lasts only a few hours. Why do I need two interpreters?”. Interpreting is a very soliciting activity. Simultaneous interpreters always work in pairs, switching approximately every 30 minutes.
  • If your event is a conference, a meeting or any other event where most materials are prepared in advance, please make sure you provide the interpreter with copies. It will help them prepare better for the event, research terminology, familiarise with the tone and style. If the event involves liaison interpreting (solicitor-client meetings, doctor appointments etc.), providing copies of medical records, transcripts from previous hearings, background etc. will be appreciated and you will benefit by having a well-prepared interpreter to assist you. If you are concerned about confidentiality, please note our interpreters can sign an NDA if needed.
  • Book your interpreter in advance. This ensures that an interpreter will be available on the desired date and they will have time to prepare thoroughly for your event. Also, if anything should happen and you need to cancel, giving us enough notice will lower the chances of having to pay cancellation fees.
  • Do you need equipment? Some types of events such as conferences where people in the audience speak different languages and interpreters for each language combination are needed, you will also need special equipment. Interpreting booths come equipped with all the audio devices needed and there will be technicians who will ensure everything runs smoothly.

During the event

  • For conferences where simultaneous or consecutive interpreting is required, try to maintain a reasonable pace of your speech. Going too fast may mean that the interpreter could miss out part of your speech. Don’t forget that he needs to either repeat everything you say in a different language at the same time (simultaneous) or take notes for consecutive.  Allowing short breaks every now and then will help the interpreter catch up.
  • Address your client directly, as if you were speaking to them and not through an interpreter. Instead of saying Ask him where he was on the night of 25th say Where were you on the night of 25th?
  • Try not to use jokes, slang or cultural references in your speech I (unless agreed in advance with the interpreter). They usually don’t translate well and humour will be lost on both the interpreter and the audience.
  • The interpreter may ask additional questions. This does not mean he or she is not skilled enough, they will try to make sure everything is perfect. When it comes to vocabulary, some word may have multiple meanings or different translations in the target language.  For example, if you use the word meeting and they need to use the Romanian equivalent, they might ask you whether it is an appointment, a gathering, a session etc.

If you have any questions we have not covered here, please feel free to get in touch and we’d be more than happy to help.