a victim or advocate, you'll likely have many occasions
to use an interpreter. And when you do, you'll want your
conversation to be as smooth and as accurate as if the
interpreter weren't there at all. So, here's a few tips
on how to make that magic happen.
In conversations of legal or medical import, only professional
interpreters should be used.
2: If you are a victim reading this, even though
we present these tips in terms directed to an advocate,
these same tips apply to you and can guide you, too, whenever
you use an interpreter.
Introduce yourselves. But don't jump into the business
at hand. The minute or two you take to set the stage at
the beginning is the key to easy communication across
the language barrier.
Ask the interpreter if she (he) will be doing simultaneous
or consecutive interpreting. In simultaneous interpreting
the interpreter interprets and speaks at the same time
as you speak. In consecutive interpreting the interpreter
waits until you have completed a segment of speech and
then interprets while you pause and your client listens.
(Unless the interpreter is professional, and can do simultaneous
interpreting in both directions without stumbling, ask
the interpreter to do consecutive translating throughout,
so as not to be switching back and forth.)
If the interpreter is not a professional, instruct
the interpreter that once you begin, she or he should
not take part in the conversation in any way. They
should only interpret, phrase for phrase, as accurately
as possible, what you and your client have to say. (If
the interpreter is a professional, she or he will already
Physically place yourselves so that you are facing your
client, and your client is facing you. Place the interpreter
physically close to both of you, but not in a position
that breaks the line of sight between you and your client.
(Similarly, if you are using a telephone interpreter,
you and your client should sit facing each other.)
5. Have the interpreter instruct your client to
look mainly at you as she speaks and listens, and not
at the interpreter. Likewise, you should look at and
speak to your client, not to the interpreter. If you
are using a telephone interpreter, sit so you can easily
pass the phone back and forth.
Begin with a minute or two of light conversation to establish
a reliable, steady rhythm before getting into the business
at hand. In consecutive interpreting, it's also crucial
to establish the quantity of speech in each segment before
pausing for the interpreter to begin. (Two or three sentences
is usually the maximum a non professional can handle accurately.)
Have the interpreter instruct your client to stick as
closely as possible to that same speech segment size in
each round of conversation.
Keep it slow. If there begin to be mis-communications,
stop, and slow the pace even more. Because of the slower
rhythm, conversations using interpreters are often much
calmer and smoother than conversations using only one
Don't push the limits of the interpreter. Keep the
pace comfortable and reliable. Monitor the quality of
communication. Stop and make adjustments at the first
signs of mis-communication. The closer you can maintain
an even pattern and keep focused on your client, the more
the interpreter will magically seem to disappear from
the conversation. In fact, when you use an interpreter
well, you will even begin to forget that you and your
client are speaking two different languages. It really