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How to Tell If You Need an Interpreter

The need for a professional interpreter should always be assessed and decided before the appointment, as in many cases the person cannot determine if the situation will necessitate hiring an interpreter or not.

Assessing the need for an interpreter
When you are looking to hire an interpreter, it is important to determine how proficient a person can understand and communicate in English. Hiring an interpreter is essential when the person:

  • Speaks English as a second language, but the situation could affect proficiency due to stress or unfamiliarity (court hearing, unpleasant medical situation)
  • Is difficult to understand or does not respond smoothly in English
  • Relies on other people to communicate in English
  • Prefers to communicate in another language

In many cases, the interpretation services are requested by someone other than the client, such as a medical practice who wants to deliver a message to a patient who is not proficient in English. To assess a client’s level of English language proficiency, it is better to ask open-ended questions, not questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no.

Determining the preferred language
To hire a professional interpreter, you must know what language the client would prefer so that you can seek the right interpreter for the job. While the country of origin can indicate the preferred language, many countries have multiple languages and dialects. It is always best to ask the client or the accompanying person, if not possible you can use a visual aid that lists languages or use an interpreting company who can help in those situations through phone interpreting.

Proposing the use of an interpreter
The way you offer a client an interpreter will impact their decision. A poor way of asking the question would be to say, ‘You won’t need an interpreter, will you?’ Instead, use ‘Will an interpreter be needed? In what language?’ Do not ask ‘What language do you speak at home?’, it is better to say, ‘In what language do you prefer we offer our service?’

If the client refuses using an interpreter, it is important to understand the reason to address it. Some of the common reasons for refusing an interpreter are:

  1.  Don’t know they exist
    Many people do not know that professional interpreters exist.
  2. Cost
    The fear of paying for the cost of an interpreter, in which case it is better to get an estimated cost of the service.
  3. Prefer somebody they know
    In some cases, it could be due to cost, while in other cases it could be a concern of privacy, which is easily addressed by seeking a reputed translation and interpreting company.
  4. Embarrassment
    Some clients believe that it is embarrassing not to be speaking English proficiently, and this can easily be flipped around by stating that it is you who need an interpreter as you do not speak their language.

If you need to hire an interpreter, whether onsite, through telephone or other media, contact Speak Your Language today and get a quote for our professional interpretation services.