Interpreters are kind of like magicians. They come in, focus, and get their job done by essentially translating on the spot – out loud! – and helping people understand what is happening in real time. Interpreters convert spoken language into another language – including sign language – for presentations, conferences, court proceedings, medical consultations, business meetings and more. If you are working with an interpreter, how can you make their job easier? Here are a few dos and don’ts to make things flow smoothly.
Do: Brief Your Interpreter
Planning a presentation or meeting and using the services of an interpreter? Chances are, you know what you’ll be saying in advance, or at least you have the general gist down. As a minimum, provide your interpreter 3-4 days in advance with the key points and documentation, including the following:
- Any reference materials, presentations, notes, terminology, so the interpreter(s) can review and prepare.
- Any names of people, programs, companies, that may be difficult to pronounce or may require research so the interpreter(s) understand the context.
- Open the meeting in Zoom/TEAMS (or other platform) at least 15-20 minutes prior to the start of the meeting so that a test to ensure that everything is working well with technology (sound, platform, etc.) This time also allows to work out how to effectively communicate with the moderator/PM/Interpreter during the meeting in case a message needs to be passed along across from one person to the next, without the audience knowing.
- Ensure the speaker has a headset with a microphone. iPods are ok however a more optimal experience is with a headset including a microphone at the speaker’s mouth.
- Ensure that all participant microphones are on mute, except for the speaker. This will reduce ambient noise.
- Ensure the speaker talks slowly and understands that there is someone interpreting. If the speaker goes too quickly, the interpreter may miss some items and the experience for the audience will be impacted.
Don’t: Rush Through Your Material
Remember that your interpreter needs time. Time to listen, time to convert the language, and time to communicate clearly with those who need interpretation. Speak slowly and clearly. Bonus: your audience will appreciate it, regardless of what language they speak!
Do: Use Plain Language Where Possible
Try to use simple, easy-to-understand language wherever possible—and make things clear for your audience! Take a look at plain language guidelines for tips. The key points here are as follows:
- Lead with important information.
- Try to stick to the active voice.
- Avoid jargon.
Not only will your interpreter appreciate it, but everyone will also benefit from clear communication.
Don’t: Disregard Cultural Differences
Are you presenting for a global audience or for an audience with a different cultural context than your own? Consider taking out material that might not be clear or make sense without context. Avoid slang, don’t refer to local personalities the audience might not know, and be mindful of any cultural norms that may differ from your own. Your interpreter is here to do their job, not to flag content issues.
- Always brief your interpreter about what to expect – subject, duration, key points, and more. Send your documentation in a few days early to allow your interpreter(s) to prepare.
- Speak slowly and clearly, and don’t rush. Your interpreter – and your audience – will thank you.
- Use plain language where possible.
- Keep your audience in mind – your interpreter is not a cultural advisor, so don’t treat them that way. Do your research beforehand and adjust and parts of your material that need adjusting.
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