We discussed some of the basic modes of interpreting, but what exactly are the rules of interpreting? If you have used interpreters in the past, did you follow the rules? In this article we’ll learn some things your interpreter would like to tell you, but may not have the chance to.

A Fly on the Wall

Interpreting requires flexibility. For example:

  • Working on a tour group requires mimicking the skill-set of a tour guide.
  • Providing services in the courtroom often means representing multiple parties, who are often talking in quick succession and very often with little regard for the interpreter who’s keeping pace.
  • Conference interpreters are often confined to a booth with little feedback from the outside.

However, regardless of the type of interpreting taking place the goals remain the same: To remove the disadvantage caused by lack of language comprehension and to remain as unobtrusive as possible.

Sometimes these objectives can feel in conflict, so successfully carrying out the job can be a little like walking a tightrope at times. The interpreting industry has norms in place to help everyone reach these goals. Take note of some of these principles and how you can work well with your interpreter and follow the rules of interpreting.

Making the Most of Interpreting Services

Let’s look at some tenants of interpreter protocol and ways you can help:

1. Interpreters interpret in first-person.

For example, If the witness says “I don’t love him anymore!”, the interpreter will avoid saying “He says that he doesn’t love her anymore”. Rather, he will interpret exactly what was said, speaking in place of the witness.

Interpreting clients can help by speaking directly to the other party. So avoid saying things like, “Can you ask her what she means by that?”. Rather say, “What do you mean by that?”

2. Interpreters must make it perfectly clear when they are speaking on their own behalf, and this should be as infrequently as possible.

Of course, not everything will go perfectly smoothly. Sometimes parties mumble, sometimes people speak over each other. Sometimes parties give utterances that are too long to interpret effectively. These situations may require that an interpreter identify himself in the third person to make a correction, or seek a clarification.

Please be careful to speak clearly and stick to shorter sentences. There is certainly no rule for how long you should speak but make eye contact with the interpreter from time to time and be sensitive to gestures indicating that they would like you to pause briefly. An interpreter never wants to interrupt you, but if they need to in order to carry out their job, they will.

3. Generally, interpreting happens in distinct modes: consecutive and simultaneous.

Consecutive interpreting involves the interpreter rendering segments of a speech piece-by-piece, between pauses, while simultaneous interpreting involves continuously rendering a constant flow of speech in as close to real-time as possible. Most interpreters are adept at carrying out both, since, the job often requires transitioning in and out of the two modes. Try and be cognizant of the fact that the interpreter is having to determine which is best, usually based on how much “back-and-forth” is happening.

If you know ahead of time the structure of the proceedings and have a moment before beginning, discuss with your interpreter what mode will best handle the situation. Their know-how, combined with your situational knowledge can go hand in hand.

So now that you know the rules of interpreting and how to work with an interpreter, why not book one today! Check out our professional interpreting services to get more information about how we can work together to fulfill your communication needs.