Tips for Helping Your Interpreter

Tips for Helping Your Interpreter

How can you help your interpreter? Be considerate. Understand the task that you are asking the interpreter to perform and the challenges that must be overcome. It may not be possible to follow all the suggestions outlined below, but if you can include some of them, your interpreter will be much more effective and certainly less stressed.

First and foremost: remember that your interpreter is a person. Human beings are not perfect and they are not machines. They get tired. They get hungry and thirsty. Plan your meetings and travel so that your interpreter has time to rest and eat. Your interpreter may make it seem easy, but handling several people and two languages is very tiring mental work. If your interpreter is rested and refreshed, your meetings will go more smoothly and your interpreter will thank you.

1. Speak clearly at normal volume and speed.
If you speak too softly, the person may not be able to hear; speaking loudly or shouting when those actions do not convey your meaning may actually inhibit the exchange. Try to keep your pronunciation clear.

2. Pause frequently.
After you have expressed a logical segment or portion of your idea, pause to give the interpreter a chance to relay the idea in the other language. The interpreter may be able to retain several sentences and then render them, but this creates difficulties, both for the interpreter and for the parties involved. By pausing at frequent intervals, you not only reduce the demands you are making on the interpreter, but you can also prevent misunderstandings and frustration.

3. Keep your meaning clear.
When you are clear about your meaning, your intent, and your purpose, it will be easier for the interpreter to choose the correct words or phrasing to communicate whatever you are trying to say.

4. Use complete phrases and simple sentences.
Partial sentences or phrases can be extremely difficult to interpret. Complex sentence structures are difficult to manage anyway. English and Chinese language structures are quite different. Sentences with many subordinate clauses and dependent modifiers make interpreting difficult and mistakes more likely.

5. Use common language.
Remember that your interpreter has learned one of the languages as a second language. He or she may not fully understand or be able to convey all the subtleties of your meaning. Even the most expert interpreter will occasionally meet usage and vocabulary problems. Whether your interpreter can handle technical or legal vocabulary should have been discussed in advance; that is not the issue. Languages have many subtleties which are easily perceived by someone from that culture but are confusing to someone with a different background.

6. Give your interpreter a chance to prepare.
This may include some reading material or a brief discussion of the topics to be included. A good interpreter will have tried to do some research in advance, but a briefing by one or more of the parties involved can help clarify any issues.

7. Let your interpreter rest.
Try to arrange your meeting schedule in short blocks or arrange for more than one interpreter. A general rule is not more than two hours for simultaneous interpreting. Remember, no matter how expert the person may be, interpreting is very taxing work. A thirty minute break between meetings can make all the difference.

8. Allow the interpreter to eat.
Remember that even though polite conversation at dinner is considered good manners and many business agreements are concluded over a lunch, these are difficult situations for an interpreter, at least for one who expects to eat anything during the meal. There may be a pause for you to take a bite while another person is speaking, but that pause does not exist for the interpreter. If you only have one interpreter, try to arrange a break before the business meal to give him or her time to eat something.