What Do I Need To Know Before Doing An Interpretation?

Even though this question is somewhat obvious to some people, others do not take into account among the myriad questions that are asked before accepting a job as an interpreter.

On previous occasions, I have talked about the definition of interpretation and specified what were the different types of interpretation (telephone interpretation, consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation) and addressed the issue of how to work with an interpreter. This time, I will tell you, as an interpreter, what information is needed BEFORE doing and even accepting an interpretation of any kind. It is best that this information is requested when during the discussion on the services.

Here I offer a brief list of questions to be used as suggestions in no particular order, and some possible answers (only to give an idea of the variety that exists). Always be aware that the more information we have about the work to be performed, the more accurate and impeccable our work will be.

QUESTION: Who will be part of the interpretation?

ANSWER: A speaker and an audience of 100 guests. / A doctor and his patient. / A teacher and a class of 15 students. / Two family members.

Q: Where are they from exactly or what kind of accent do they have?

A: He is Chinese, but will be speaking in English. / The physician is American and the patient is Mexican. / The teacher is French. / One family member is Arabic and the other lives in Spain.

Q: What kind of interpretation is required? How many interpreters are needed?

A: Consecutive, simultaneous, consecutive-simultaneous, or telephone.

Q: What is the subject? (NOTE: The more details we have, the better!)

A: Conference on aphasia in children. / Doctor visits and follow-up after surgery. / Lecture on evolution. / Business meeting on the timber industry. / Family talk about life in general.

Q: What is the expected duration of the event or situation requiring interpretation?

A: 3 days / 4 hours / 1 hour / 1 week

As much as these questions may seem obvious, they never are. Everything contributes to providing a better service. The more we know, the more we read about it, the more we investigate… Anyway, it all adds up to meeting and exceeding the customer’s needs.

(Spanish version: ¿Qué necesito saber antes de hacer una interpretación?)