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  • Yelena McCafferty

Some Tips for Interpreters to Remember

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Interpreters… Don’t you love them?! Well, you do, if everything goes smoothly. At the end of the day, they help us communicate with someone we can’t talk to directly. This someone can be our business contact, our client, our patient or even our distant relative!

What makes a good consecutive interpreter? Proficient interpreters don’t just speak the languages they interpret from and into. They start each job well-prepared. It is vital to gather any background information you can, to have an idea about the project you are about to get involved in. If presentations are to be given, it’s great if you can read them beforehand. You can familiarise yourself with any specific terminology, names and research any acronyms used.

While there is an argument whether it is an absolute must for an interpreter to have good looks (at least, some Russian clients expect this and on some occasions prefer to use a female interpreter which they point out when they ask for one), I believe, every interpreter should be presentable. Needless to say, when you work for a client, you represent that client. If an interpreter is required for a corporate event, it’s always good to check the dress code too not to stand out from the crowd.

Having your own badge with your name on is something else which wouldn’t go amiss. Event organisers will often provide you with one, but if they don’t, it’s good to have your own – that way everyone is aware of who is who.

It is absolutely vital to have a notepad handy. Not so much to look up any terminology you’ve written out, but to take notes. Depending on the speed of the speakers you are interpreting, you may need to jot down the main points to avoid memory blanks. Do use a pencil as pens often fail. Pencils hardly ever do, unless you break them!

Talk Russian can arrange an interpreter for most events in London.

Interpreting for Russian Chamber of Trade and Industry at the Green Technology Roadshow in London

If there is something you missed or didn’t quite get, do not hesitate to ask the speaker to repeat. Asking them to clarify a point can only help them get the right message across. Some clients are not at all used to working with interpreters. Don't be shy to ask them to pause if they give large chunks of information in one go.

Do keep eye contact with the speakers, if you don’t, it may look odd or even rude. Mirror the tone of the speakers and explain any cultural differences if there is a clash. Remember to remain impartial though.

Do interpret in the first person, starting a sentence with: “She says that…” is against the rules. Interpret as if you were the person you are talking for.

As a Russian interpreter myself who worked with other Russian interpreters, I do think it’s important to have a glass of water by your side. Interpreters speak double the amount of time as they have to interpret both parties. And if there is lunch or dinner where your services are requested, do not be surprised if you leave the table half-hungry. With so much talking going on, you may have an opportunity to have just a few bites, and drinking much alcohol is, of course, a no-no!

Do not be late. And if you have any time constraints as to when you need to finish by, let the client know in advance.

Confidence is vital in every profession. If you look confident, you look right, you know what you are doing. It’s good to be a bit nervous, interpreting is in no way a relaxing activity. It helps when you have bags of experience behind you, but biting more than you can chew is never recommended!

I have also published a guide on commissioning interpreting services for those who are looking for professional Russian interpreters on our website here.

[Tip: To book our Russian interpreter, call us on 0207 0436940 or email]



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