Tips For Working With Interpreters


Provide the interpreter with as much information as possible prior to the appointment.

Sharing specific information in advance about the type of medical appointment, legal case or other event they are interpreting for will allow them to better prepare for that particular situation. The vocabulary needed to interpret for an eye surgery is drastically different from that of a colonoscopy, and the vocabulary in a worker’s compensation case can vary depending on the claimant’s line of work. By providing these details to the interpreter ahead of time, your interpreter will be far better prepared and efficient on the day of the appointment.


Speak to the LEP individual directly, and avoid talking to the interpreter about the LEP individual in the third person.
The interpreter will interpret everything you say, exactly how you say it, speaking in the first person, just as you do. For example, if you say “I’m going home”, the interpreter says, “I’m going home”, not “Paul says that he is going home”. The interpreter simply provides the voice, but should otherwise be “invisible”. Therefore, there is no need to include the interpreter in the conversation by saying, “Please tell Mr. H that I’m going home.” Otherwise, the conversation can turn into a confusing “He said, she said” discussion.


Focus on the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) individual.
Give the LEP individual your full attention by focusing on him or her with eye contact and body language. This applies when you are speaking, when the LEP individual is speaking and when the interpreter is interpreting.
Do not say anything to the interpreter that you do not want interpreted.
It is the interpreter’s job to interpret everything you say, and it is inappropriate and unfair to the LEP individual for you and the interpreter to have side conversations, and vice-versa.
Speak clearly but naturally.
Avoid complex words, words with double meanings, slang and clichés. Also beware of using jokes and humor which may not translate well due to cultural differences. Be sure to speak at a normal volume. The LEP individuals are not hard of hearing, they just require interpretation.
Explain technical terms.
Because interpreters work with varying professions in a variety of fields, such as law, healthcare and education, they cannot be expected to know every detail of every topic.


Avoid using acronyms.
Acronyms can become confusing in the interpretation process. They often slow down the interpreter as he or she is forced to explain each word and sometimes explain the entire context.
Watch your speed and timing.
Refrain from interrupting the interpreter. During consecutive interpretation (where the interpreter waits for you to pause before speaking), pause after each complete thought, bearing in mind that the interpreter must remember everything you have just spoken. For simultaneous interpretation, speak a little slower and take occasional breaths or stops for a sip of water to allow your interpreter to catch up. Remember that interpretation doubles your time, so a ten minute speech will take 20 minutes.
Give the interpreter regular breaks.
Interpreting is mentally taxing, so be sure to give your interpreter’s brain time to rest. As a general rule, interpreters should receive a short break every 45-60 minutes. When interpreters do not receive appropriate breaks, mental exhaustion can lead to slower interpreting and a higher risk of interpreting errors.
Ensure your interpreter receives a meal break.
Often, a meeting will recess and the participants will go to a more informal setting for lunch or dinner to continue discussing. If you don’t have another interpreter who can take over during the meal, your interpreter will be forced to work all day without eating. This can also lead to exhaustion, slower interpreting and a higher risk of interpreting errors.

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