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interpreter wearing headset

In honor of National Interpreter Appreciation Day—the first Wednesday in May—we’re spreading awareness of the challenges interpreters face. We hope you’ll thank your interpreters for the essential work they do for you and incorporate some of these helpful tips to make their job easier.

Speak in the first person

Interpreters usually speak as the client or patient when interpreting. Because of this, it’s important to talk in the first person as yourself. Don’t say things like, “Tell the patient to take her temperature.” Instead, say, “Take your temperature.” It will help the session go smoothly and convey your message more efficiently.

Use short, complete phrases

Many interpreters rely on note-taking and short-term memory to interpret between parties. The shorter the message, the less likely the interpreter will need to ask for repetition. Pause briefly before speaking after each interpretation, or you may cut off the interpreter before they are finished.

Eliminate background noise

The interpreter’s primary function is hearing and converting what each participant in the conversation says. Whether you’re working with an interpreter over the phone, on-site, or via video, do everything you can to ensure they can hear all participants clearly.

Enunciate your words

Speaking too softly makes interpreting challenging. Remember to use a loud, clear voice whenever possible. If you’re using over-the-phone or video remote interpretation, a headset microphone can make it easier for the interpreter to hear you.

Avoid using slang, jargon, & metaphors

Interpreters often act as a bridge between cultures. It can be difficult to convey slang words, humor, sarcasm, idioms, and metaphors across all languages, so it’s best to avoid using them. If cultural or linguistic issues arise, allow the interpreter to clarify these for the limited-English proficient person.

Looking for more tips to improve your interpretation sessions?

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Lindsay Lawson

Lindsay Lawson

An experienced researcher, writer, and editor on language services-related topics, specializing in interpreting and translation services, how language works.