When you book a telephone interpreter
Updated: May 27
The COVID-19 crisis has made everyone rethink the way we work. For interpreters, remote interpreting is not a new trend, however, for others meetings on Zoom have quickly become a new reality.
Technology is great when it works but we all know sometimes it lets us down. Every now and then it’s easier to just pick up the phone and call, the old-fashioned way. If you need an interpreter on the line, it makes it slightly trickier as unlike in video interpreting, you can’t see anyone and they can’t see you.
So here are some tips to make communication over the phone with an interpreter more effective.
Prepare the interpreter by telling them the context. When you go to a meeting, you want to know what it’s about, don’t you? So does the interpreter.
Provide written materials in advance if these are to be discussed and certain sections quoted. It will prepare the interpreter and make the meeting flow much more smoothly.
Avoid using speaker phones whenever possible. You may not hear the other parties well enough, especially if foreign accents are to be considered, and they may struggle hearing you too.
Allocate sufficient time, meetings with an interpreter usually take double the time.
Speak in the first person singular as if you are talking directly to the other parties. Don’t tell the interpreter: “Could you just explain to him…”
Speak audibly and in short sentences. Keep messaging simple. It’s true for marketing and just as relevant for human interactions.
Limit the use of gestures and facial expressions. The phone can’t pick these up.
Consider using platforms such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime if your meeting is likely to go on for more than an hour. It's easier to structure and communicate when the parties can see each other. It makes it a little bit easier to replicate a real-life meeting.