Sourcing Interpreters

June 16, 2011 by admin

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We have previously expressed thoughts on how to trust new translators. I would now like to attempt to answer a somewhat similar question: how can you trust a new interpreter?


In our industry we work mainly with freelance translators and interpreters. Whilst with translators you can test and “assess” their abilities before adding them to your trusted and favourites list, dealing with interpreters is a little more complicated.


Having been dealing with most our interpreting services over the last few months, I came to realise how much of a gambling game this is. Because, although translation is a subjective process, there are ways to decide upon whether a translation is good or not, or to what extent a translation is usable, or even where mistakes might lie.


With interpreting though there is no easy way to asses any of the above. Your decision is based on a CV, the interpreter’s references, a few email exchanges and phone calls. Therefore, your decision is made based on what others tell you about your candidate. How much can you trust these sources though?


If a client is not satisfied with a translation, the translation can be reviewed and, based on the outcome, one can see whether the initial “product” was of a good enough quality. This is not the case with interpreting. How can you review an interpreting assignment? If your client is not happy, what action is there to take in order to shed more light on the situation?


Once an interpreting assignment has taken place there is no turning back, unless there is recorded material. You believe that you have sent the best possible person to do the job, but your client thinks otherwise!


As there is no way to tackle situations like this, at least none that we’ve thought of yet (suggestions on the back of a post card please!), the only action that can be taken is pre-assignment, i.e. at the “selection” processes.


In this light here’s what we have come up with to ensure that we have the best possible candidate for an interpreting job:


1. Always look for native speakers with at least 5 years of experience and with a proven command in the other language (English is usually one of the languages involved).


2. It is essential to get as much information about the assignment from the client as this will determine what kind of experience you will be looking for in your interpreters, as well as helping them prepare for the assignment.


3. I have always found it helpful to have a verbal conversation with interpreters. This will help you get a true feeling of their command of English (which, most of the time, is one of the languages involved) as well as an initial idea on their personality.


4. Make sure (and this is an absolute must) you get at least 2 references relevant to the field of expertise of the potential assignment. As well-written as a CV can be, an opinion from a third party is necessary.


5. Once you have narrowed your options to a few people, invite them for a small interview/chat. Freelance interpreters might not be the typical colleague you work with and see every day, but as a potential employee would be interviewed, the same should hold true for interpreters (after having reviewed their CV and qualifications).


Of course, there’s not always time to go through all the above, but the more information you get, the more likely you are to source the most suitable interpreter for the job.



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