4 Things You Should Know When Selecting an Interpreter for Your Business

Last Updated On: April 4, 2021

inGeneral, Translation Skills, Translation Tips

Interpreter for Your Business

If your business needs an interpreter, a necessary step for any internationally orientated business, you will need to select the interpreting service carefully. Most interpreters are specialised, so basically you need to be sure what you want the interpreter to do for you to avoid wasting the interpreter’s time and your time and money, too. To give you a head’s up on things you should know when selecting an interpreter, read on below.

1 Identify your needs

Make a list of attributes that identify the tasks you want the interpreter to carry out for you. For example:

  • Will the interpreter be interpreting face to face, by telephone or by video link/zoom?
  • What language pairs do you want the interpreter to interpret in?
  • What context will the interpreting be done in? For example, a meeting, conference, one on one interview, client consultation, liaison with a government department?

Note that larger interpreting service agencies often have a more diverse line up of interpreters with a range of language skills that can fill the criteria for what you want.


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    There are obviously restrictions on a face to face interpreting services because of local Covid-19 rules and you may find it hard to find a suitable interpreter willing or able to appear in person depending on the current conditions and regulations you are under. Telephone and internet/video interpreting should not present the same sort of problems.

    2 Find out what the terms and conditions are for the interpreting service

    Interpreters are in hot demand at the moment because of the pandemic, so you do need to ask what the cost of the interpreting service is going to be in advance and it’s worth getting more than one quote unless you are in a real rush. Note that interpreters are not the same as translators and need to be present while the interpreting is taking place. i.e. it is a live performance, even if it is done remotely. This means that the time of day, number of hours worked, days needed etc. will all figure in the cost of the service. Make sure you provide as many details as possible to the interpreting services or individual freelance interpreters in advance so they can make an informed decision about what to charge and what they can and cannot do. If the interpreting content is subject to privacy issues or is sensitive you may need to draw up a confidentiality agreement in advance. Make sure you let the interpreter know about this in advance and what a breach of the confidentiality agreement might mean / consequences.

    Finally, make sure that the agreed terms and conditions are drawn up in writing in advance and signed by a representative of your business and the interpreter or the interpreter’s own company.

    3  Provision of special equipment

    The interpreter should have a good idea of what equipment might be needed. This could vary from virtually nothing if it is a face to face interpreting session, or a good signal if it is by telephone (a landline connection is to be preferred). If the interpreter is phoning from an office or their own home, ask them about possible noise distractions which could interfere with the session.

    If the session is to be done by video internet link or zoom, then the equipment both at the interpreter’s end and your own end should be considered carefully. The larger the session, e.g. a video conference or large meeting, the more emphasis there should be on making sure that the equipment chosen is adequate and won’t be an impediment to good communication.

    4  Take time to consult with the interpreter before the actual session

    Even if the interpreter is being provided from an agency pool it is worth taking time to talk to the interpreter well in advance of starting an interpreting service. Emphasise what you want the interpreter to do and stress the context of the interpreting session. You will get a feel whether the interpreter you are interviewing is up to scratch and capable of handling the task(s) you want them to do. Ask them about the experience they have had as an interpreter and what training and qualifications they may have acquired. Good interpreters tend to have had a relevant training in interpreting skills, acquired some sort of qualification and had several years interpreting experience. 

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