The Difference between certified and qualified interpreters

5 tips for Hiring an Interpreter

By Gio Lester © 2017

The following is a guest post by Giovanna ‘Gio’ Lester, originally published by the American Translators Association (ATA) Interpreters Division. Gio has worked in the translation and interpreting fields since 1980.  She is a co-founder of ATA’s Florida Chapter, Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida (ATIF) which she has served as its first elected president, director, and interim board president. As a writer, Gio has contributed to various T&I publications both in print and online and is the current Editor of The NAJIT Observer. You can find her on Twitter @cariobana.

1. So, what language is it that you need?

It is important to be very clear when determining the language of an assignment. Portuguese has a number of variants: Cape Verdean, Angolan, Brazilian, European to cite a few. Chinese can mean Mandarin or Cantonese. And not everyone in Spain speaks only Spanish: Basque, Catalan, Gallego are also spoken in that country, which means Spanish may not be a person’s first language, especially with older people. Country of origin is not a good determinant of what language is spoken by the Limited English Proficient (LEP) or audience. There are many languages spoken in Latin American countries: Quechua, Mixteco, Zapoteco, Guarani, are only a sample.

2.What will you be talking about?

A simple insurance appraisal can turn into a nightmare if not enough details are known. A simple car damage claim can change from a mundane automobile insurance case into a complex maritime insurance claim if the car was inside a container aboard a ship. In the case of conferences, interpreters start to work weeks before the event with vocabulary research, glossary development, studying the materials they receive or researching the client when no material is made available. If it is a legal case, an informed interpreter will help speed up processes, therefore interpreters should be given the case style and other pertinent information in advance.

Is confidentiality an issue? That is what non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are there for. Plus, interpreters are bound by one or more codes of ethics and their professional reputation is their greatest asset.

3. What is the work environment like?

Interpreters can find themselves at the Bellagio Las Vegas one day, and be at a waste treatment plant the next.

Why is it important to know the type of environment we will be working in?  Clothing selection is one reason, hazardous pay is another, planning in advance where to position oneself in relation to the speaker and her audience, and a few more come to mind.

There is also remote interpreting, which can take place in one’s home or in a studio or at a convention center. The challenges are different (stress, physical strain, technology management, etc.)

“It is important to be very clear when determining the language of an assignment.”

4. How much does it cost to hire an interpreter?

Much less than the losses that may result when working with an untrained individual.

There are different reasons for hiring an interpreter and one common thread: bridging the language gap so information can be communicated and have a better chance of been understood. Period.

In court and quasi-legal settings, keeping the record clear and accurate is easily achieved through the use of trained interpreters. It is important to note that:

a) certification is not available for all languages

b) state certification is available in a variety of languages, whereas federal certification is only available in Spanish

c) language certification offerings vary from state to state

d) states have tools and rules in place for accommodating the use of non-certified interpreters, check with your state court

In business settings – meetings, conventions or conferences – Return On Investment (ROI) is the ultimate goal. Trained interpreters know industry jargon, correct terminology, and prepare themselves to convey the message they are tasked with at the same level as the speakers whose voices they represent.

In medical interpreting, we are inspired by the slogan of the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA), which states Medical Interpreters Saves Lives in Many LanguagesTM. To ensure that is the case, the US has two entities offering national medical interpreter certification in a total of seven languages. The Commission for Certification of Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) offers certification in Arabic, Mandarin, Spanish, and a language neutral credential for all other languages. The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters  (The National Board) offers certification in Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

“A simple car damage claim can change from a mundane automobile insurance case into a complex maritime insurance claim if the car was inside a container aboard a ship.”

5. How are interpreters paid?

There is no unified, across the board fee or standard. Fees vary per state, market, language, time, working conditions.

Professionals in some states will charge by the full-day, others accommodate half-day fees; for certain situations, a per hour fee (with or without a minimum) will apply. And for those situations when the work goes just a tad beyond the payment unit, it is wise to make arrangements ahead of time.

Those are starting points for a fruitful dialogue. When discussing a project with a prospective client, please take into consideration that, in most circumstances, they are not familiar with your work. Ask questions. Provide answers. Educate. Negotiate. Get hired!