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Advice from Associates – Working with interpreters

Interpreters are an invaluable part of your team in any public engagement exercise and there are lots of things to consider if you’re going to make the most of the resource. These are just some of the basics.

Before the event

Book in plenty of time. Good interpreters get booked up weeks in advance.

Book the right interpreters. Sounds simple, but don’t assume that someone from a certain community speaks the majority language associated with it.

Book qualified interpreters. Interpreting takes great skill and years of hard study. The National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) and The National Register of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD) hold free-to-access registers of qualified, regulated interpreters.

Brief your interpreters fully. The more preparation you give your interpreters the better job they will be able to do for you.

Think about when you’ll need interpreters. Registration, break-out sessions, to interpret for guests during networking opportunities.

At the event

Ask your interpreters to display their ID badges.

Make sure your interpreters and audience are content with the set up. Be prepared to take feedback and make changes during the course of the event.

Brief your speakers and participants. Both should understand the interpreters’ role.

There will be a slight delay while your interpreter understands the speaker’s point and prepares to deliver it to your audience. Carry on, don’t wait for the interpreter.

Speak to your audience, not the interpreter. Don’t say ‘Please ask her…’ just ask the person. Keep looking at the person you’re talking to – don’t be concerned if they look at the interpreter.

After the event

Actively seek feedback. Talk to the participants, the speakers and the interpreters. What did you learn? How can you improve things for next time?

About the Author

Paul is a vocal champion of good communication with 20 years’ experience of involving people in policy and service change by creating relationships and supporting dialogue between underrepresented people and the people who make decisions that affect them.

Read more about Paul

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