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Everything you need to know about Interpreting - K International

Everything you need to know about Interpreting - K International


K International, a supplier on our Language Services framework (402), discuss everything you need to know about interpreting, from the different types to how to work with an Interpreter. 

While English is the most commonly spoken language in the United Kingdom, it’s far from the only language. In addition to Celtic languages like Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh, you’ll also find a wide diversity of community languages.

Our rich and diverse population means you are likely to encounter people who speak:

  • Polish
  • Punjabi
  • Urdu
  • Bengali
  • Gujarati 
  • Arabic 
  • French 
  • Portuguese 
  • Spanish
  • Various Chinese languages

With so many different languages, interpreters are vital for effective communication and in some cases, it’s required by law. 

If you’re in charge of arranging these services, you might have questions about how to hire an interpreter. 

  How do I know what type of interpreting services we need? 
  How do I know we’re hiring a good interpreter? 
  How can we get instant access to an interpreter if the need arises? 
  How can we make it easier to schedule interpreting sessions? 

This article will help you learn more about what interpreters do and why they’re important, better understand your options and choose an interpreting service that will help you achieve your organisational goals. 

What is Interpreting? 

Before hiring an interpreting service, you need to understand what you’re buying. 

So, what is interpreting? Interpreting is the act of translating a spoken or signed conversation from one language into another. Please note, interpreting is different from written translation. Many people confuse the two disciplines.  However, they are not the same, and they require different types of training and skills. For example, interpreting requires listening skills and speech skills.  Translation requires reading and writing skills. 

As a result, interpreters are not necessarily translators, and translators are not necessarily interpreters. 

At times, interpreters may be asked to “sight translate,” that is, to read a text from the source language into the target language, translating it as they go. However, in most cases, converting written texts from one language to another is the job of a translator, not an interpreter. 

Types of Interpreting 

When it comes to interpreting services, one size does not fit all. Fortunately, there’s a variety of different interpreting options available to suit all types of situations. Here are some options your organisation can choose from: 

  Consecutive Interpreting
In consecutive interpreting, everyone takes turns talking. It is the most common type of interpreting. It doesn’t require any special technology, just a qualified interpreter. However, because it’s more time-consuming, it’s best suited for one-on-one conversations or small groups. 
  Simultaneous Interpreting 
Simultaneous interpreting is most commonly used at large events, like conferences, trade shows or at the United Nations. With simultaneous interpreting, the interpreter interprets while the person is talking. This type of interpreting is much harder on the interpreter than consecutive interpreting.  However, it also saves time and listeners tend to prefer it. 
  Telephone Interpreting 
Sometimes, it’s difficult to get an interpreter in person when you need one, especially for less common languages. Telephone interpreting is an excellent way to bridge the gap, as one phone call can give you access to hundreds of different languages. 
  Video Interpreting 
Video interpreting is much like telephone interpreting, except that everyone can see each other. That makes it easier for the interpreter to read body language and non-visual cues for improved accuracy. 
  Sign Language Interpreting 
For many Deaf and hard-of-hearing people, sign language is their first language. Sign language interpreting makes it possible for Deaf people to utilize their native language in the hearing world. 


When do you need an Interpreter? 

If you need to converse with service users, business partners or clients who don’t speak your language, then you need an interpreter. Keep in mind, too, that even if your contact can speak more than one language they are often more comfortable using their mother tongue. Especially if the conversation is stressful or very important. 

Many Public Bodies use interpreters from time to time for different reasons: 

  • Medical interpreting and healthcare interpreting. GPs, clinics, hospitals and specialists all utilise interpreters to ensure that even people who don’t speak English have equal access to healthcare.
  • Schools, colleges and universities use interpreters for their students and visitors. 
  • Legal Interpreting. Legal interpreters help witnesses report crimes. They also help the police investigate crimes, and ensure that defendants understand what is happening in the event of a trial. 
  • Social Services departments may use interpreters when communicating with service users and their families.


Who can be an Interpreter? 

It’s not uncommon for some organisations to think they can save money by relying on the language skills of their employees. Sure, Bob in Accounting may have grown up speaking Spanish, but that doesn’t mean he has what it takes to be a good interpreter (or even an adequate one). 

The bottom line? Interpreting is much harder than it looks to someone who’s never tried it.  Interpreters are trained professionals. Bob in accounting may be a trained professional accountant, but he is not a trained, professional interpreter.  It’s not fair to Bob or anyone else to make him do a job he isn’t trained to do. 

Sometimes, clients or patients will bring friends and family in with them to their appointments. However, friends and family are generally not the best choices, either, especially for medical or legal matters. 

First of all, like Bob in accounting, they aren’t trained to interpret and are more likely to make mistakes, especially in high-stress situations. Secondly, using a professional interpreter can make it easier to candidly discuss sensitive issues. It’s not uncommon for people to want to keep some things - affairs, addictions, et cetera- private from their family. 

Additionally, both the medical and legal professions have their own specialised vocabulary that a volunteer interpreter may struggle to understand. 

Finally, unless there’s absolutely no alternative, children should never act as interpreters in any sort of medical or legal situation. Even if they want to help and speak both languages, they are still children.  Interpreting adult conversations is a job for grown-ups. 

How to work with an Interpreter 

  Be prepared
The more an interpreter can prepare for a particular assignment, the better. Describe the purpose of the appointment and any special circumstances in as much detail as you can. If you plan to refer to written materials during the meeting, provide them to the interpreter ahead of time. 
  Speak directly 
Interpreters are there to transmit your words into the other person’s language. Don’t talk to them about your conversation partner. That creates confusion and the other person is probably going to be offended. 
  Speak slowly 
If you talk a mile a minute… slow down.  It’s important to give your interpreter time to process what you’re saying. You should avoid talking so slowly that it sounds patronising. Speak as if you’re addressing an adult, not a child. 
  No idioms
Use simple language. Avoid idioms, slang and jokes that might get lost in translation. If taken literally, you might think that someone with cold feet has… cold feet. 
  One person at a time
Interpreting is challenging enough without adding a cacophony of different voices to the mix. If more than two people are involved in the conversation, make sure that only one person is speaking at a time. 
  Be professional 
Respect interpreters time and don’t ask them to do tasks that fall outside of the scope of a standard interpreting assignment. For example, it means not expecting the interpreter to give the other participant a ride home or call them a cab. 


How to hire an Interpreter 

With so many options and so much on the line, how do you choose the right interpreting service for your organisation? 

First, consider your interpreting and translation needs – not just the needs of the moment, but what you’re likely to need in the future, as well. Finding an agency that can meet all of your needs will save time and money in the long run - K International for example, offer a full suite of interpreting and translation services.   

Next, look for an agency with experience and a good reputation in the industry.  

Also, ask about interpreter training and specialisation. Sectors like medical and legal have their own vocabulary, and if interpreters aren’t familiar with the terminology their performance will suffer. 

Sign language interpreters should be well-trained, and certification is often required.  

Finally, consider the technology the agency brings to the table. Do they offer solutions that make it easier to order, schedule and manage interpreting services? Do they offer telephone interpreting services or video remote interpreting for immediate access and/or hard-to-source languages? 

To find out more about K International or for more information on ESPO’s 402 framework, please click here or contact the People and Professional Services team on: 

t: 07584 158137               

K International 

K International has been helping organisations of all types and sizes with their language needs for over 30 years. They offer access to trained, certified interpreters in 250 languages and a variety of formats. All of their interpreters are CACDP (The Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People) approved and registered.