Create Understanding with an Interpreter

For non-native speakers in a foreign country, there may come a time when you need to use an interpreter.  Interpreters assist with the accurate communication of ideas between two parties.  They can also be very helpful cultural interpreters as well giving either party clarification on actual or potential cultural misunderstandings.  If there are problems, do not be afraid to ask the interpreter for advice.

When using an interpreter, there are several items that should be considered:

· If possible, hire an interpreter knowledgeable about the subject to be discussed.

· Speak clearly and slowly.

· Avoid little known words and the use of idioms.

· Explain the main idea of the discussion more than once to make the point clear.

· Speak only a minute or two before allowing the interpreter to speak.

· If necessary, allow the interpreter time to take notes about the dialogue or clarify the meaning of obscure points.

· Do not interrupt the interpreter as they are speaking – misunderstandings could result.

· Avoid using long sentences, double negatives or negative wordings if a positive wording will work.

· Avoid being superfluous.

· Support your verbal message with expressions and gestures.

· To double check understanding, write out the main points discussed and confirm in writing what was agreed to in the discussion.

· Allow the interpreter a break after two hours and consider using a second interpreter if the event will last all day.

Lastly, understand interpreters are people.  Understand if they make a mistake, and do not panic if they need to consult a dictionary or if the interpreter covers in 30 seconds what it took the speaker 5 minutes to express.  Being patient and deliberate with an interpreter can go a long way and results in a discussion everyone can understand.

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