Language interpreting is the conversion of thoughts or expressions in one language (known as the source) into expressions with a similar meaning in another language (referred to as the target) either consecutively after one party has concluded speaking, or simultaneously in “real time.” Interpreting services are commonly used for conferences, court cases, tourism, community services, the medical field, the media, and for deaf persons.
How can you choose the best company to handle this important task for you? Ask prospective interpreting service providers these questions to ensure your language interpreting needs are fully met:
What types of interpreting do you do? Possibly the best known type of interpreting is “simultaneous” or “conference” interpreting, where delegates wear headphones or earpieces that enable them to hear the interpreter’s voice while the meeting is going on. Another common type of interpreting is “consecutive” interpreting, where speakers pause after every phrase so that the interpreter can deliver the phrase in the target language. Other varieties to ask your interpreter about include “liaison” or “ad-hoc” interpreting and “whisper” interpreting.
Medical interpreting is another, very important, type of interpreting. Hospital interpreters translate information provided by medical personnel into a language that the patient understands. These interpreters do not have to be medical professionals. Knowing how to translate detailed health terms to patients is a requisite, however. Some hospital interpreters achieve this skill through certificate programs offered by universities and college, or through academic degree.
Do you have interpreters that know my industry? Having an interpreter who is familiar with your industry, together with the subject matter he or she is interpreting, is critically important if you want to take your success over to new markets. This is particularly important where your industry is unique or predominantly technical. If your interpreting service can’t guarantee that their designated interpreter has the knowledge base necessary to successfully communicate your message then you should look somewhere else.
How experienced are your interpreters? In most situations, there is little chance for correction and revision when a speech is being interpreted, and interpreters work under a lot of pressure. Interpreters have to quickly comprehend, convert and deliver each party’s thoughts and feelings. It’s important to ensure that any interpreter you hire has the level of skill necessary to complete this difficult task, because the consequences of translation errors are often very serious.
The earlier you book your interpreters, the better. It may be useful to have a short pre-conference to brief interpreters on your objectives for the main meeting, and on what will be expected of them. A pre-conference can also help to bridge cultural gaps during the actual meeting. At the pre-conference, you should iron out details such as whether interpreters will be working live or via video feed, and on how to approach culturally sensitive issues.
Interpreters should not be viewed exclusively as language assistants. They can help in a lot of areas besides aiding you in overcoming the language barrier, such as devising strategies, arranging your conference and giving advice on cross cultural differences. It is vital that you see interpreters as working with you rather than for you.
James Vasanth writes a blog on Bilingual Resources Group, Inc about Language Interpretation, Translation Services and connecting the dots between online and offline.