The Client Perspective: The Ideal Interpreter

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Today's quick post is from the client perspective, because in addition to being services providers ourselves, we are quite oftentimes clients ourselves, meaning that we buy interpreting services. More specifically, we outsource interpreting work to colleagues, mainly for conference interpreting projects. We'd like to give you a quick list of things that we look for, in no specific order. These attributes and characteristics go beyond actual interpreting skills.

  • The interpreter has a professional presence and presentation (website, business e-mail, etc).
  • The interpreter asks our questions the first time (our pet peeve: we send three questions and get answers to two).
  • The interpreter responds promptly. By that we usually mean the same business day. We certainly don't expect an immediate response, but the same business day is usually good. 
  • The interpreter sends a professional price quote when we ask. And by that we don't mean an e-mail with a rate--we actually mean  a document with terms and conditions, etc.
  • The interpreter knows which questions to ask, for instance about the equipment, when it comes to requesting background materials, etc.
  • The interpreter makes us look good. Ultimately, we send interpreters to events to do a great job and to make us look good. This includes being professional at all times.
  • The interpreter solves problems quickly. In conference interpreting, problems can arise quite easily. We look for interpreters who take quick action and solve them as independently as they can--although we are, of course always available to help.
  • The interpreter is positive and outgoing. We look for interpreters who focus on the positive rather than things they can't control. Constant complaining at events is not attractive and serves no purpose. Some situations might be less than ideal, but you have to roll with the punches.
  • The interpreter has good rapport with the client. As opposed to many other LSPs, our small boutique agency is not afraid that our interpreters will "steal" the client. We trust our interpreters and feel very comfortable in our relationships with our clients. At the event, we think it's very appropriate for the interpreter(s) to talk to the client if the situation arises--with our without our presence.
  • The interpreter is on time, or early. We have a tendency to work with the same linguists, and we always choose people who have a history of being early. Being late means you will probably not work with us again. 
These are the main things we look for when hiring interpreters. Is there anything else you would add?


Alessandra Vita on December 21, 2015 at 10:50 PM said...

Great post as always, July and Dagmar. :)

I would only add that the interpreter should avoid a diva-like attitude and be down-to-earth. When outsourcing assignments to fellow interpreters, it is always nice to receive some signs of appreciation from them.

Merry Christmas and happy 2016, full of wonderful assignments and great clients! =)


Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on December 28, 2015 at 3:25 PM said...

@Alessandra: Many thanks for the sweet comment! We are delighted to hear that you enjoy our blog.

And yes, that is a great additional piece of information! Being approachable is definitely key. Great stuff!

And yes, same to you: may 2016 bring you joy, happiness, and lovely clients!

Powel on February 9, 2016 at 1:16 AM said...

I may add that an interpreter should be emotionally resilient. At times the matter engaged in may be pathetic especially if it is a court matter. The interpreter needs to suppress personal emotions and stay professional.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on February 9, 2016 at 8:39 AM said...

@Powell: Yes, excellent point--thank you so much for contributing to this conversation. At times, it sure can be difficult to remain calm and collected, but it's what an interpreter must do indeed.

Angela Kyolaba on February 9, 2016 at 10:46 PM said...

I think a good interpreter, in addition to your points should also be be culturally sensitive. This means that he should relate his interpretation to the nature of the environment; economic, political, religious, ethnic etc.

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