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THE INTERPRETER'S GUIDE




If you are a beginner and you have an assignment, chances are that besides feeling excited about the assignment, you might be feeling nervous or perhaps insecure, and you will ask yourself, will I perform well? where is the venue located? who to talk to? is this the right place? if it is virtual, will I have the right link? if it is by phone, will I have the right number? will they have the right number to call me? and many more questions that will make you feel even more nervous and insecure. The truth is that even the most experienced rock singer feels nervous before going on stage. The trick is how to deal with it.


To feel good and confident, start with yourself (attire, appearance, tone in which you present yourself, etc.). BE PREPARED!


Here are some guidelines to help you:


IN-PERSON INTERPRETING

  1. Appearance: no matter if you go to a formal or a less formal place, a professional interpreter always dresses impeccably, shirt or blouse, well groomed, clothes should not be wrinkled and if possible, avoid wearing clothes that have brand logos or are very casual.

  2. Client's information: ask for all the client's information at least one day before the appointment. The name of the client or contact, the way they spell their name, phone number, and exact address of the appointment (do not accept approximate addresses, you could get lost and be late). If it is a specific place, such as a hospital, ask for the name of the hospital.

  3. Punctuality: Plan to arrive at least 20 minutes before the appointment. This way, if it is difficult to find the place where you are going to interpret, you will have time to arrive on time.

  4. Location: search in Google Maps or another address search engine for the place where you are going to go, and if it has a view of the street and the building, this way it will be easier for you to get to the place. If you get lost, call the client or the contact.

  5. Language: ask what type of interpretation it will be (legal, medical, commercial, etc.). Familiarize yourself with the language of the appointment. Also, ask for glossaries or scripts, if possible, so you can better interpret the topic.

  6. Getting to know the clients: once you have contact with the source and/or target language client, you should introduce yourself, confirm the language that you will be interpreting for that person, ensure confidentiality, and shake hands (with the presence of Covid-19 many people do not shake hands, so they tap elbow to elbow), speak firmly, look the clients in the eye and give them confidence. Be friendly and respectful (try not to use informal speech or slang) and follow through with the pre-interpretation protocol.

  7. Location: the best place to position yourself is where you are not in the way and where clients are not looking directly at you when they speak. We are the voice and we want customers to talk to each other. We are the bridge that breaks the language barrier; therefore, we do not want to be the center of attention.

  8. Notes: Always carry a notebook with you to take notes, one that is not too big and has a solid base that allows you to write without having to sit down or make someone uncomfortable. Remember, only take notes of the most important things such as dates, dosage, and frequency of medications, a word or two to remember the flow of the conversation, numbers, etc. If you try to write down everything that is said, you will most likely miss some words that may be important. When you are done, destroy the notes; in that way, you are fulfilling the confidentiality agreement.

  9. Dictionary: we are human, and we are not perfect; in language, there are countless words that we may have never heard or do not remember their meaning, this happens often, and there is nothing to be ashamed of, so it is necessary to always have a dictionary at hand. There are now many versions of electronic dictionaries that we can have on our smartphones, iPad, or tablet. Simply let the customer know that it is a word you are not familiar with and look it up quickly. The customer won't get upset; they know it's important to accurately know what you are saying to avoid misunderstandings.

  10. Keep track of check-in and check-out: it is very important if you are a freelancer, especially that you keep a document or form that indicates the time of check-in and check-out. This will help you keep track of the hours you worked and receive fair payment for your work.

  11. Farewell: When you finish interpreting, don't just say goodbye or see you later, but in a very polite way, ask if there is anything else you could help them with; if there is nothing else, then thank them for the opportunity to have worked with them. If they are your clients, give them your business card so they can contact you again for your services. If they are an agency's client, do not leave a business card or ask for the client's information. Let's have ethics and respect. If the agency's client asks for your information, explain that due to agency policies, it is not possible, but that you can gladly give them the phone number and the name of the agency's contact person.


VIDEO REMOTE INTERPRETING (VRI)


  1. Platforms: Video interpreting is usually done on third-party platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Cisco Webex, Slack, and others. That is why you should always make sure that you know how to use these platforms and that you have the most updated version so that you do not have last-minute connection problems such as the program not loading, asking you to update just before the interpretation, etc.

  2. Link: make sure the link is working by logging in 10 to 15 minutes before the meeting. If the link works, wait a few minutes to be let into the room. If the link does not work or comes up with "an error" or "invalid," if you are a freelancer, contact the agency's administrator immediately and tell them you are having problems with the link. They will take care of communicating with the client to solve the problem. If it is your client, contact them and tell them that the link does not work and tell them what error message you get on the screen. Chances are they will send another link that works.

  3. Time it: the interpreting time starts running from the moment you enter the room where you will be interpreting and ends when the client closes the platform. If you work for an agency, it is very likely that the client has contracted for a specific time and the interpreting time has already been allocated. Ask the agency what fraction of the hourly rate they charge to the client (some agencies pay fractions of 1 to 15 minutes). Ask the agency what to do when the client goes over the contracted time. If it is your client, make a contract and let them know beforehand what your fee is for overpassed minutes. You can charge per fraction. For example, if the client hired you for only one hour and went 5 or 10 minutes over, you can charge the client per fraction. For Example, if you charged $100 for the hour, divide it by 4 (15 minutes x 4 = 1 hour), and then the fraction would be $25 (100/4=25), so you charge your client $125. You determine what your fraction is: every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, etc. Let the client know the cost of your fraction beforehand, so the client won't think you are overcharging or surprising them with extra fees.

  4. Appearance: always remember to take care of your appearance and how you present yourself in front of the camera; it is very important. The first impression you transmit will be decisive for the client to have confidence in you. If you present yourself disheveled or in pajamas, the client will not have confidence in what you interpret, and it is very possible that he/she will create a bias against your professionalism. Let me ask you: If a waiter had dirty hands when delivering your food, would you eat that food? That's how quickly and simply biases are created. Avoid misconceptions about your interpreting skills because you are not well presented.

  5. Rules: when you start interpreting, you have to set the rules. For example, if it is a consecutive translation, you must tell all attendees that they must speak in short sentences and pause to give you time to interpret. If it is simultaneous, tell them not to speak too fast so that you don't miss any important words or ideas. Have a script of your rules handy to put in the chat box. For a script idea, click HERE.

  6. Have water on hand: from so much talking, our mouth and throat get dry, and this could cause us to start coughing, or our voice may not be understood very well. Keep your mouth and throat moist at all times.

  7. Take turns: if you are working with another interpreter, be courteous and before you start interpreting, agree on who is going to interpret first, whether the exchange will be every 15 or 30 minutes. Remind the other interpreter 3 minutes before to be ready for the exchange either by chatting on the platform or by WhatsApp or text message (request their information before starting to interpret.)

  8. Take notes: be prepared with a notepad, which fits well in your workplace (table, desk, etc.), two pens (one that you are going to use to write and the other as a spare), and create your own abbreviations (if you try to write down the full length of the words, you may not pay proper attention to what is being said). When you are done, destroy the notes you took.

  9. Computer and Internet connection: make sure that your computer is compatible with the platforms that you are going to use to interpret, also that your internet is fast and that the connection is via ethernet cable. Wifi waves fluctuate a lot, and communication could be lost. With the ethernet cable, you ensure that your connection is fluid, reliable, and has no interruptions.



OVER-THE-PHONE INTERPRETING (OPI)


  1. Phone Connection: usually, over-the-phone interpreting assignments are given by agencies, and they contract with the client for a certain number of hours or minutes to interpret. Before taking the assignment over the phone, ask what to do if they go over the contracted minutes, if the call is cut off, if they don't connect with you at all, etc. With this information, you will be able to act and make decisions. If the client is yours, create a contract where it is stipulated that after the contracted time, charges will be made for additional minutes. Double-check the phone number to be called, including extensions, codes, instructions to connect to the call, and platform.

  2. Dedicated line: Preferably have a dedicated line for your phone interpreting. Disable call waiting.

  3. Glossaries and Scripts: ask for glossaries and scripts for the appointment, and review and practice the words in the source and target language. If you don't have any of these, ask what area you are interpreting to be prepared. For example, if you are asked to perform medical interpreting, have them specify the areas such as orthopedic, cardiac, oncology, etc.

  4. Information: Verify that the agency or your client has your correct information, such as phone number, email, etc. Make it easy for them to reach you in case of a call drop, problems with the phone line, etc.

  5. Take notes: as in the other types of interpretation, it is important to take notes, especially dates, group numbers, dosage and frequency of medications, bank accounts, etc. Destroy the notes when you are done interpreting.

  6. Dictionary: have a dictionary at hand, either printed or electronic.


At Traducy, we have professional interpreters with experience in the different areas of medical, legal, immigration, commercial and more. If you have any questions, please call us at 385-977-8719 or email us at contact@traducy.com.

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