The Difference between certified and qualified interpreters

5 tips for Hiring an Interpreter

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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!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. aaliana

    You are right.
    These are most important things to understand while we are going to hire an interpreter.

  2. Jeremy Thompson

    I have never took into consideration the fact that it’s important to know the interpreter’s work environment. I see now that this could is an important factor since it’ll show how they handle stress and their presentation. Thanks for the guide on what to consider when hiring an interpreter! I’ll be sure to take this into mind when hiring one.

  3. Tim Blackman

    Hey, thank you for your comment Jeremy! It is essential to understand the interpreter’s work environment so they may better prepare for the assignment. For example, healthcare interpreters who often deal with sensitive issues such as a patient’s surgery plans or handling communication with the family of a loved one on life support need to be able to communicate effectively and timely between both the patient and the health care staff. The better prepared an interpreter is for an assignment equates to a higher quality service for the client.

  4. Theordore Winston

    Thanks for helping me understand the things to consider when hiring an interpreter. It helps that you mentioned about being specific with what particular language do we really needed to get interpreted. I understand that there are a lot of variants of languages involved in a certain state language, so it’s important to scan the interpreter or interview them.

  5. Joy Butler

    Our company is having a worldwide expansion and is looking to extending their support for multiple languages for our product. It does make sense that having a multilingual support should make a good image for your company especially when you’re trying to reach a region of a different language. With a bit a bit of product training, it would be a good investment for companies to hire translation services to further their growth.

  6. Tim Blackman

    Thank you for your comment Joy! I agree, it’s definitely a good investment to consider translation services such as localization when looking to expand into the global marketplace because they can help ensure your business and brand are viewed similarly for both domestic and foreign customers. Be sure to check out this blog for more on the concept of localization and how video game developers localize their content for all audiences.

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