How to Use an Interpreter Correctly: A Guide for Foreign Language Speakers

on site interpreter

How to Use an Interpreter Correctly: A Guide for Foreign Language Speakers

As a foreign language speaker, you may have questions about how to use an interpreter correctly. It isn’t a topic that is usually discussed, leaving you at a bit of a disadvantage.

Luckily, by taking the right approach, you can make sure the conversation runs smoothly. If you speak a foreign language and are using an interpreter during a meeting, here are some tips that can help.

A Foreign Language Speaker’s Guide on How to Use an Interpreter Correctly

Introduce Yourself to the Interpreter Properly

When you first meet with the interpreter, take a moment to introduce yourself. Give them your name and an overview of your position in the conversation. For example, if they are performing as a medical interpreter, you can let them know if you’re the patient or the patient’s representative.

Additionally, give them details about your primary dialect. Many languages have a slew of dialects, each with its own nuances. By discussing this in advance, you help the interpreter gain their bearings early, giving them clues about what to expect.

Don’t Talk Directly to the Interpreter

While this may seem odd, when you’re using an interpreter, you don’t want to speak to them directly. Remember, you’re in a conversation with another person; the interpreter is just facilitating the discussion.

For example, if you’re speaking with a physician, focus on the doctor. If you’re in an immigration hearing, concentrate on the immigration representative. This ensures you keep the other person involved in the conversation in mind, preventing you from slipping into side conversations with the interpreter.

Understand that the Interpreter Is a Neutral Messenger

When you get information from the interpreter, remember that, while they are the ones speaking, it isn’t their message. They are relaying what the other participant is sharing, nothing more.

Understanding that the interpreter is simply a messenger ensures you don’t direct any frustrations about what’s being said toward them. You don’t want to hold the interpreter responsible, as they have nothing to do with the content of the conversation.

It’s also crucial to realize that the interpreter is a neutral party. Regardless of what they are relaying, they won’t have an outward reaction, something that may seem odd if the information is emotionally charged.

Similarly, the interpreter isn’t there to take sides. Their job is to make sure the conversation moves forward smoothly and that everything said is relayed as close to word-for-word as possible, all without using any embellishments, omissions, or summaries along the way.

Don’t Ask the Interpreter for Advice

As mentioned above, the interpreter is a neutral party that’s there to convert one language into another, using as close to a word-for-word approach as possible. This means that they can’t give you any advice, whether it’s about the topic of conversation, word choice, or anything else.

Avoid Slang, Jargon, or Idioms That May Not Be Present in the Other Language

Most languages have unique features that don’t always translate well into other languages. Slang, jargon, and idioms are prime examples, as many of them are not used globally.

When you use an interpreter, try to use straightforward, common words, phrases, and expressions. That way, your interpreter can translate directly instead of having to find a way to describe the intent behind what you said.

Don’t Say Anything Out Loud That You Don’t Want Shared

In most cases, an interpreter is there to translate absolutely everything said while the conversation is underway, regardless of whether the sentiment was intended for the other person. If you don’t want something known by everyone in the room, don’t say it out loud while the interpreter is there.

If you need to share something privately with a person, you can request a moment to speak alone. Then, leave the room, or silence your microphone if you’re on a video call, before you do.

If You Need Clarification, Ask the Other Participant

If you don’t fully understand a point that was shared, request clarification from the other participant, not the interpreter. The interpreter can’t act in that capacity.

If you need more information, let the other participant know. You can also ask clarifying questions, giving them insights into what you need understanding on or where the confusion lies. That way, they can provide you with the right details directly.

Speak Using a Metered Pace, Pausing Between Thoughts

One of the most challenging aspects of using an interpreter is adjusting your pace when you talk. You want to make sure you speak a bit more slowly, especially if you have a tendency to speak quickly when nervous. Additionally, don’t increase your volume, as that isn’t necessary in most cases.

You also want to make sure that you pause at the end of a thought. This gives the interpreter a chance to relay what’s being shared without having to speak over too much of the conversation.

Wait Before You Answer Questions, Request Clarification, or Comment

While speaking at a metered pace is important, so is waiting patiently when the other person talks and the interpreter is translating. You need to give them both time to share all of what needs covering.

Cutting off either the other participant or the interpreter creates confusion and delays the conversation. Plus, there’s a chance that your question will be addressed in the next sentence, so don’t get ahead of the discussion by jumping in before the other participant is finished.

Do You Need an Interpreter for a Meeting?

If you need a professional interpreter for a meeting and one isn’t being provided by the other party, Acutrans can help.

Acutrans provides interpretation services – both in-person and remotely – as well as offers certified, notarized translations within 24 hours. If you need an interpreter, the Acutrans team can offer a fast, reliable, and professional solution. Contact us for a free quote today.