Top 5 tips for working with an interpreter
Using professional interpreters involves far more than simply turning up, delivering your talk, and expecting your language professional to simply keep up.
At least, it does if you want to give your audience the best possible experience.
That’s why we’ve put together some expert tips on how to get the best out of working with a professional interpreter.
By implementing these tips, you can ensure that everyone in the room, no matter which languages they speak, can enjoy your content equally.
Ideally, you need an interpreter who you feel comfortable with and have had a chance to speak with before delivering your talk.
If you’re in charge of hiring them yourself, be sure to check out several interpretation services until you’re confident you have found the right person.
You can read more here about how to assess the quality of your interpreter, including researching reviews of the service they deliver, and using an agency to be sure they have undertaken the necessary interpreter certification checks.
With your professional interpreter hired, it’s time to focus on how best to work with them.
1. Slow things down
If you’re using an interpretation service, it’s a good idea to slow the pace at which you speak just a little.
This will give the interpreter time to catch and translate every word you say.
When speaking too fast, words can bleed together, making the job harder for the translator.
Professional speakers develop their own speaking pace and patterns over time and it can be surprisingly hard to consciously alter this, but it will benefit your interpreter — and thus your audience — if you do.
Practice delivering your talk a little more slowly beforehand, so that you avoid falling back into the same rhythm as usual when it comes to delivering it live.
2. Decide on a secret signal to use with your interpreter
It doesn’t have to some complex secret signal, but it is worth agreeing on some kind of sign, signal, or gesture with your interpreter so that they can let you know if you’re going too fast.
If you see your interpreter give you the signal, slow things down. It will give them time to catch up and keep pace with your delivery.
Simultaneous interpretation is no easy feat, so be sure to work with your interpreter rather than against them!
3. Break down your talk into segments
Segmenting your talk will help ensure that the delivery flows well, while making the content clearer for both the interpreter and the audience, regardless of which language people are listening in.
Professional speaking is an art, as is simultaneous interpretation.
The two can work beautifully together when a little extra planning goes into the speech-writing. By having unambiguous segments, and clear chunks of content, it will be simpler for the interpreter to translate and stay on track with your delivery.
4. Don’t drown your interpreter in idioms
When speaking on stage, try to avoid idioms and other content that when directly translated do not make sense.
Referring to someone “having a frog in their throat” or “kicking the bucket” might mean something to those listening in your native language, but a Spanish interpreter (for example) may struggle to translate to Spanish “on the fly” when confronted with such bizarre terms.
By the same token, a Spanish to English interpreter might struggle to convey the meaning of a phrase such as ‘no tener pelos en la lengua’ if it’s delivered during a fast-paced speech.
The Spanish phrase “no tener pelos en la lengua” means “a person has no hairs on their tongue”, and is used to refer to a person who says what they think and how they feel without caring about what others might think, somebody who is straightforward and blunt. In English, we might use the expression “doesn’t mince their words” or “doesn’t beat around the bush”, which has a similar meaning, however, it might be difficult for an interpreter to think these up on the spot.
This is a key difference between using an interpreter vs a translator — a translator has time to consider the expression and come up with an equivalent in their language.
Expecting an interpreter to deliver such a colloquial expression in real-time is a much bigger ask than it is when using translation services!
5. Share your talk with your interpreter beforehand
One thing that you can do as a professional speaker to make your interpreter’s life a whole lot easier is to share your talk beforehand. Ideally, you can send them an exact transcript, but if you have a video or audio recording of your talk, this can also suffice.
When you use professional translation services, your language specialist takes their time with your content to craft the perfect translation.
In fact, doing so can provide your interpreter with a huge advantage. They will be able to pick out specific lingo, terms and phrases so that your translation is exact as possible.
These tips should help you to get the best out of working with a professional interpreter and give you the confidence to deliver multilingual talks. If you’re still unsure about whom to hire, check out these tips on hiring the right interpreter, as it’s essential to work with the right person for you.
Finally, remember that even if you don’t have control over which interpreter you work with, or the chance to share your talk with them in advance, building in natural pauses and speaking slowly can still make a big difference to how well your interpreter is able to deliver your talk.
- Breaking into the international speaking market: going from local to global
- Be understood when presenting to international audiences
- Professional speaking: how to work with your interpreter
- International speaking: working with translators, and how they can help you give a talk in another language
Ofer Tirosh is CEO of Tomedes, a translation and interpretation services company that has been working with clients around the world and helping to break down language barriers for over a decade.
This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.