Effective Use of an Interpreter
There are a few things you should be aware of to make the most effective use of an interpreter.
Being informed of appointment purpose
Tell the interpreter the goal of the appointment. This can be done in the notes section of the booking form or at a pre-meeting 10 minutes prior to the appointment. This will help the interpreter prepare for the appointment and all parties will be better understood.
Where the interpreter sits or stands depends on the situation and the language being used. For a spoken language interpreter, sitting comfortably between the two speakers is appropriate to aid the easy flow of communication. Sign language interpreters will usually sit beside the speaker and opposite the deaf person. This enables the deaf person and the interpreter to ‘see’ each other’s signs easily and allows the deaf person to have eye contact with both the speaker and the interpreter. It is best to let the client direct you as to where is best to sit.
A sign language interpreter may also request a change of lighting, such as drawing curtains or turning a light up to allow the deaf person and the interpreter to see each other clearly.
Using your own language skills
Staff and service providers may speak some words of another language. It is fine to use your skills to greet a person and establish rapport, such as expressing pleasure at seeing someone again. However, once the appointment begins it is best to leave bilingual skills to the accredited interpreter or translator that has been booked specifically this purpose.
Who to address and eye contact
When meeting with the client for whom you have booked an interpreter:
- Address the client, not the interpreter.
- Maintain primary eye contact with the client.
- An interpreter will continue to interpret at all times. If you wish to have a private conversation with another person in the room, step out and discuss the issue, leaving the interpreter with the client.
Important points when working with interpreters
- Speak normally. The interpreter will tell you if you are speaking too quickly or they need you to stop.
- Spoken language interpreters may direct you when to stop and start speaking, allowing them time to interpret your message to the client.
- Sign language interpreters generally interpret simultaneously, which means they will sign at the same time that you speak. Avoid over use of jargon, slang or idiomatic expressions.
- Listen without interrupting.
- Allow a little more time for a meeting, adding 15 minutes for every hour.
- Do not assume that a client’s nodding’ indicates either understanding or acceptance of what you have said. It can merely indicate respect.
- At times an interpreter will ask for clarification of a term, and at that point will address you directly.
- The interpreter will at times take longer than you expect, which is required when cultural explanation is required to give complete meaning to a situation.
- Relax. Interpreters are professionals and the goal is to ensure that all parties understand each other clearly. If you are unsure of anything, just ask.
- An interpreter can be a cultural aide who is able to give you cultural feedback that increases your understanding of reactions and responses. You are entitled to cultural interpreting as a way of clearly understanding the interaction.
What the interpreter will NOT do
- The interpreter will not side with the non-English speaking client. The interpreter is an impartial professional who is there for the benefit of both parties.
- The interpreter will not interject or offer their own opinion.
- The interpreter will not enter into private discussion with either the client or the service provider but will interpret every word that is spoken or signed.
- The interpreter will not act as a ‘witness’ to any forms or declarations.