Here are some tips that will make your first experience using an interpreter more pleasant.
Before a Job: Briefing Interpreter – the Weakest Link
Brief the interpreter adequately to make sure the interpreter knows the purpose of the job. Give them the relevant background to get them onto the same page. For a court booking, this often involves sending them the statement of claim and defense or counter claim from both parties
Your Chinese client may have been communicating with you through some other assistance such as a friend or family member. Both you and the client may have good knowledge about the matter. It is the interpreter who needs to catch up quickly so avoid being the weakest link.
For the same reason, we try to allocate the same interpreter to a client for continuity and save you the hassle of re-briefing another interpreter.
During a Job:
- Simultaneous or Consecutive?
You can choose to have the interpreter rendering a conversation consecutively or simultaneously. It will depend on the familiarity of the interpreter with the subject matter and the level of English comprehension of the Chinese speaker.
If the interpreter is not familiar with the subject matter. For example, a discussion about a new surgery technique between a Chinese surgeon and their Australian colleague is highly technical and probably dense in terminology, the interpreter will need time to understand the concepts, recall the terminology in the other language, before rendering. Therefore the consecutive mode will produce a more accurate interpreting. Time is sacrificed for the benefit of accuracy.
If the Chinese client has a high level of comprehension of English, say more than 50%, a concurrent mode may actually interfere with the Chinese listener’s comprehension as he/she will tend to process incoming English and Chinese information at the same time, which may actually overload his/her ‘CPU’.
More information about Simultaneous Interpreting Vs Consecutive Interpreting
- Full Interpreting or Selective Interpreting
The level of English of your Chinese client will not only dictate the mode of interpreting, but also the quantity of interpreting required. The client may only requires interpreting from Chinese into English as it is not unusual to see a foreign language speaker understand more content than he/she is able to speak. Or the interpreter may be asked to assist with the comprehension of the Chinese client from time to time as required, as it is not unusual for the water to rise beyond the Chinese client’s comfort level as the conversation proceeds, and it is reassuring to have an interpreter to act as a ‘life buoy’ as required.
After a job: Debriefing
Discuss with the interpreter about what has gone well and what has not, as this will help the interpreter to adjust approaches to suit the need of the communication between your client and yourself. It will also help you to become a better communicator with non-English speaking clients.