How are they Qualified?
If you’re not sure of the difference between an interpreter vs a translator or qualified vs certified then you’re not alone. Simply being bilingual does not ensure quality interpretation. Furthermore, friends and family should be avoided if possible, due to their bias, lack of training and qualifications. Interpreting is both an art and a science. Many words and phrases can have multiple possible interpretations and translations, therefore choosing a professional who holds a certification is a good way to guarantee at least a minimum level of quality. Professionals are also trained in techniques, codes of conduct and privacy (e.g., HIPPA).Hiring the Best ASL Interpreter or Spanish Translato
American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters can hold a number of certifications such as the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA), the National Interpreter Certification (NIC), or a number of state run certifications. For Spanish interpreters, they generally hold either a healthcare certification (CCHI), or a legal certification through the state. The legal certification is typically a higher level which allows legal interpreters to also interpret in medical settings, however medical interpreters cannot interpret in legal settings where a court registered interpreter is required. Translators may hold an ATA certification.
Beyond their certifications and language proficiency, each interpreter and translator has their own background, speciality, strengths and weaknesses. An interpreter who typically works in education or religious settings may not be a good fit for a business conference. Likewise, some interpreters are good at simultaneous conference interpreting (keeping up with the pace and tone of the speaker), but may have a harder time when consecutive interpreting (relying more on memory and shorthand notes) is required.
Lastly, soft skills such as cultural comprehension, personability, listening skills, flexibility, punctuality…etc are harder to judge beforehand, which is why once you find a great interpreter or translator it’s good to stick with them.
Selecting a Professional Interpreting Agency or a Language service provider (LSP)
There are many interpreting agencies. While considering the cost of service is important, do not let it be the only factor when choosing who to work with. As an example, the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service was contracted for half the price of all other bids. He ended up being a fake interpreter, and the agency that sent him had a bad reputation and disappeared once he was ousted. This ended up being a national embarrassment and detracted from the memory of a great man. All just to save around $50.
That is an extreme example, but similar, less serious instances happen all the time. In order to avoid this embarrassment, check the reputation of the agency. Even simple searches on Yelp, google, or other review sites online will give you a good sense of how they do business. You can also check to see how long they have been in business. Scams tend to die out while businesses that provide good service will last. You should look for someone who has been in business for at least 5 years.
If customer service is important to you, then you should call them and speak with them about your project. You’ll get a sense of how you’re treated, whether they’re patient and willing to answer your questions, and if they make you feel like the valued customer that you are. They should also be knowledgeable (e.g., whether you are legally obligated to provide an ASL interpreter). If not, then it’s probably worth it to pay a little more to get 5-star customer service elsewhere. It may be the difference between getting Wal-Mart type customer service versus what you’d get if you went to Disney.
Tips for Selecting an Interpreter or Translator
- Understand your needs. Is it important if it is a male or female interpreter? Some medical patients feel more comfortable working with an interpreter of the same sex. Also consider regional dialects. Spanish from Spain is slightly different from the Spanish spoken in Mexico.
- Hire someone with the appropriate linguistic training and cultural knowledge. A native speaker is always a benefit, but doesn’t guarantee interpreting quality. Languages have double meanings, phrasal verbs, and different inflections, which may be difficult for someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time using both the target and source languages.
- Choose your specialty wisely. If you are hosting a scientific conference, you do not want a primary school level interpreter. They will likely lack the ability to interpret the technical aspects of the assignment. Choose someone with prior experience in the field.
- Price varies depending on the complexity of the job as well as the qualifications of the interpreter/translator. You need to keep this in mind and not just choose the lowest bidder.
- Document translation and interpretation are quite different skill sets. Many can do both, but don’t assume that just because they speak both languages, they can be both a translator and an interpreter.
- Consecutive and Simultaneous interpreting are the most common types. Simultaneous is typically used with equipment such as at a conference where headsets are distributed and a booth is set up for the interpreters. The biggest issue is interpreting quickly and accurately while maintaining the speaker’s pace.
- For consecutive interpreting, memory is key. Interpreters may also use shorthand in order to faithfully interpret the message. This is often used in court houses, depositions, medical appointments, town hall meetings…etc.
- On-Site versus Remote interpreting. Remote interpreting via video (VRI) or over the phone may be cheaper and more convenient. You need to weigh the pros and cons of each and decide what is best for you. Generally people are quite happy when they rely on remote interpreters.
- Book asap. The sooner you book an interpreter the better your chances are at filling the assignment. ASL interpreters are especially in short supply, so try to book them a week or two in advance to ensure better availability.
- Send materials to interpreters in advance. This will help them linguistically prepare for the assignment so the interpretation goes off without a hitch.
If you’re looking for additional information, such as how to best work with interpreters once you’ve hired them, what terms are appropriate for Deaf people, then you can check out our blog.
Want to Book an Interpreter?
Feel free to contact Spot On Interpreting at 855-562-7768 or fill out our request form here. You can also send an email to [email protected] We are more than happy to assist with any questions that you may have.
We have access to professional and certified interpreters and translators across the nation. We are also able to tailor our services to meet your budget. As a family-operated 5-star language service provider, our main goal is to treat our ASL & Spanish interpreters, translators, and clients just as Disney would.