4 Things to Know Before Working With a Translator

A successful interpreting job is not the sole responsibility of an interpreter.

They are not supernatural omnipotent beings who can simply shrug off the most daunting of challenges. Even the most experienced interpreters fumble on certain occasions. Clients also have a role to play to achieve the most accurate interpreting for conversations, meetings or conferences.

Here are four vital details you need to consider when working with a business interpreter.

1. Help your interpreter prepare.

To make sure that everything will go smoothly, provide everything the interpreter can use to prepare. If possible, share the documents or reference materials that will be used in the meeting or conference with your interpreter. If there are no sensitive details in the documents, provide the interpreter a copy. Anyway, it’s unlikely that you will be calling for an interpreter if the details to be discussed are strictly confidential and no third parties should be allowed to learn about them.

Providing copies of resource materials or documents is necessary to orient the interpreter to the flow or sequence of the discussions and, more importantly, acquaint them with unfamiliar terms or concepts. Uncommon terminologies or topics may be brought up during the meeting or conference. The interpreter should be ready for this so they can come up with the best translations beforehand, not struggle and drag the pace or miss some points of a conversation.

Interpreters are expected to be adept with business concepts, but they may encounter unfamiliar words or expressions that are exclusive to certain cliques. They need to be aware of such details beforehand so they can provide the best possible verbal translations. Consider doing a pre-meeting briefing or a Q&A session, especially in cases when the topic to the discussed is complex or highly specialized.

It also greatly helps to test how things work as the actual interpreting is done. Practice the process as the interpreter verbally translates your words and other people’s words for you. By doing this, you help the interpreter warm up and you familiarize yourself with how everything works.

2. Speak directly to the person you are talking to.

Don’t worry, providers of business interpreting services are accustomed to being treated as if they are not present in a conversation. They are not present in a talk between businesspeople who use different languages to take and pass messages alternately. Instead, they are trained to interpret in real time unless the client prefers a different setup.

Ideally, the interpreter’s presence allows the speaker to act as if the language barrier does not exist. This means you should be able to show your body language and other visual cues to the other party while being able to intently observe the body language of the person you are talking to.

3. Avoid humor as much as possible, and don’t expect the interpreter to convey emotions.

Humor is one of the most difficult things for any interpreter to verbally translate. Not everyone can relate to jokes, and people from different cultures rarely find the same things funny. If you want to keep the tone of a conversation or discussion light, choose humor that has a universal appeal, or give your interpreter the time to find the equivalent witticisms by mentioning the jokes you intend to say during the preparation stage.

On the other hand, bear in mind that the interpreter only conveys thoughts and explicit intentions, not feelings or emotions. Don’t expect an interpreter to channel your joy, anger, frustration or other sentiments. These are things you should be able to convey with your facial expressions and body language. Remind your interpreter not to attempt to interpret your emotions. This is why you should do a practice session, so the interpreter can familiarize your pace and tone while you get to catch “mistakes” or objectionable habits the interpreter could be unwittingly doing.

By the way, it can be considered a mistake if an interpreter attempts to infuse your accent as they say the translations of what you’re saying. For example, if you are Indian, your interpreter should not try to sound like an Indian with the conspicuous Indian-English accent. The interpreter’s voice should be neutral and free from accents to be more easily comprehensible. Imagine how awkward it would be if the interpreter tries to sound like you do and the audience or the other party you are talking to starts grinning or tries their hardest not to erupt into a boisterous laugh.

4. Avoid rushing.

Interpreting is not an easy task, especially when it comes to enabling communication between parties who discuss a complex topic loaded with jargon and data. Don’t expect even the most competent interpreters to keep up with unreasonably fast talking. This is another aspect that you should address in your preparation or practice session.

Talking fast is not only going to make things difficult for your interpreter. It can also affect your ability to process the information being exchanged. If it’s the other party who is guilty of the excessively fast talking, try to help your interpreter out by speaking slowly (to set the pace of the conversation) or by explicitly requesting the other party talk a little slowly.

Again, the interpreter is not fully responsible for the success of verbal communication between people who speak different languages. It is always better if the interpreter and the client cooperate with each other and share the common goal of ensuring the accurate exchange of thoughts and information.

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