Where can I find an interpreter?
You have an important call with a potential client in days and don’t speak their language…a patient is in dire need to communicate a time-sensitive ailment to you, but you don’t know Cantonese…You ask yourself “Where can I find an interpreter?”.
Google will of course yield the fastest answer and put you in touch with endless language agencies, freelance linguists or the usual language service provider monoliths that have the biggest ad spend, but what else do you need to know about this seemingly simple inquiry? You can find interpreters with deep knowledge in almost any field or specialization, American Sign Language interpreters, over-the-phone ones and most importantly since the start of the pandemic, even virtual interpreters.
What to know before you get an interpreter
You’ve identified the need for bridging a language gap, fantastic. That’s the first step in creating a communication line for your clients and patients. But you also have to find out first if there are unique dialect or regional considerations for the language you’re seeking out. Take Chinese for instance. While the official state language of China is Mandarin, Cantonese is largely spoken in Hong Kong and several other provinces in China. So, ensuring you’ve identified that correct language need is a no-brainer!
You also might not know this but in America, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (“Section 1557”) and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally requires that Limited English Proficient and Deaf or Hard of hearing consumers and patients must have access to communication via the required interpreters or translations they need.
Right alongside the language needed is the second most important consideration. What field or specialization will you be discussing? Most top-tier interpreters find themselves mastering particular subjects like legal, healthcare or even particular topics of interest. Each field has its own lexicon and jargon – a beginning level interpreter that might randomly find their way to you might literally lack the language to even communicate some of your client’s thoughts and concerns. This can invariably lead to frustration and worse – a total breakdown of the interaction. No one wants to see their speech mis-interpreted, wrongly edited or oversimplified to the point that the interpretation offends.
The medium and mode are the message
Now you have the basics on linguistic needs and specialization – have you considered the type of interpretation needed? Yes! There are distinct delivery mediums and also modes (we’ll get into modes later). You can get interpretation over-the-phone, in-person and virtually.
Over-the-phone interpretation (OPI) is great for those quick calls or settings where a person simply can’t be there (i.e., prison). OPI allows you to rapidly communicate with a client or someone that needs to better understand a process at say their local government agency. OPI might not be the best solution when you are dealing with dire issues, instances where a person’s fate is hanging in the balance. A legal setting or serious medical setting requires an interpreter to be on-site and actively reading the conversation, expressions and nuances that happen between speaking parties.
On-site interpretation sometimes requires a little more advance planning (though at Ad Astra our project management team can rapidly get you the interpreters and languages you need), but can guarantee that your interpretation is more rich. It also allows your patient or consumer to feel increased comfort and conversational ease. You’ll see a good interpreter employing placement techniques that allow them to see both speakers while staying out of the way. You’ll notice your interpreter will be taking notes too – they destroy these after the session ends for confidentiality. Note taking ensures they are catching critical numbers, names or gaps that they need to circle back to if something was missed.
The third big interpretation medium is one that has skyrocketed in usage since the beginning of last year’s global pandemic – you just need a webcam, phone or other streaming video device. This interpretation type is referred to as virtual interpreting or Video Remote Interpreting. Virtual is the go-to for our Deaf and Hard of Hearing peers and also a preferred method for those conversations that require the extra nuance of reading one’s expressions. With telehealth also reaching new levels of popularity and growth in the last year, a patient seeing their doctor helps to bridge feelings of psychological distance that might come from a simple phone call. In fields like teletherapy it’s incredibly critical for a patient to feel human connection in their interaction with a therapist or psychiatrist. We make sure for our virtual connections that we use HIPAA compliant formats and maintain strict ethical and technological requirements.
The last piece of the process and medium to be aware of when you are trying to find an interpreter is the mode of interpretation. You’ll need to confirm if your needs require consecutive or simultaneous interpreting. The consecutive mode is the traditional format where after a speaker stops speaking the interpreter then immediately follows after with their spoken interpretation. Simultaneous mode takes place as the speech is happening – simultaneously. You’ll find this style most commonly at conferences or live events where attendees use a headset to receive the spoken interpretation live and in the moment.
Find a good interpreter with us
It can be easy to find an interpreter, almost as simple as ordering a pizza online, but knowing what makes a good interpreter and about how the interpreter agency of choice ensures that is key. Interpreters can have formal degrees in their respective field or certifications within the languages and specialties that they work within. An interpreter with say a 60-hour certificate in medical and healthcare language has a demonstrable leg up in a hospital setting over a newbie interpreter with zero background.
At Ad Astra we perform testing and additional training to guarantee our interpreters have both the temperament, professionalism and raw linguistic knowledge to best serve your unique case needs. Additionally, our PM team becomes your partner in ensuring all things go smoothly for you and your client. They’ll act as your guide through the process and beyond. So, you’re not just finding an interpreter with us, you’re getting a partner in your language service needs. Onward in your journey now, to finding the right interpreter!