What would you want from your ideal interpreter? Do they need to work unsociable hours? Should they have knowledge of a very niche industry? Do you need ad hoc support, or are you after a more long-term relationship?
Finding a language interpreter who really matches your requirements can be surprisingly difficult. And with demand for interpreters expected to grow by almost 20% in the coming years, competition in the sector is going to only get hotter.
If you have struggled finding an interpreter, the following five tips can help you seek out a language expert who meets your needs.
5 tips for finding an interpreter
Finding an interpreter can be challenging. There might be thousands of people who can speak the languages you need, but they might not be available when required, the price might not be right, or they don’t have knowledge of your sector. Here are six practical steps to finding an interpreter who really matches your requirements.
Clearly define your needs
Perhaps the most important step when finding an interpreter is to precisely determine what you need them for. Is it for a conference, an in-person business meeting, a discussion with partners online, talking with patients about a sensitive diagnosis or getting consent for a COVID-19 vaccination?
By clearly defining what you need the interpreter for, you can narrow down your search. You will know how long the engagement will be, the medium through which the interpreting will be conducted (online, in-person, over the phone) and the location.
Learn more: When do you really need interpretation services?
Simultaneous or consecutive interpretation
There are essentially two kinds of interpretation:
- Simultaneous interpretation, which is when the interpreter instantaneously translates what a speaker is saying in real-time to an audience.
- Consecutive interpretation, which is where the interpreter interprets a two-way conversation.
If you are running a conference, you will probably need a simultaneous interpreter. On the other hand, if you are organising a business meeting or a medical conversation, you will need a consecutive translator. Most interpreters can do both kinds, although they may charge different rates for the different types of work.
The average hourly rate for a UK government interpreter is £48 for the first hour then £16 for subsequent hours. Using an agency interpreter will typically cost more, while freelancers may work out as less expensive.
Learn more: True costs of business interpreting
Before you begin an interpretation project, it is worth taking the time to think how many hours you need the interpreter for. You should also think about whether they will need to work unsocial hours – this will typically require a bigger budget.
Characteristics of an interpreter
If you are trying to find an interpreter, list out the ideal skills you’d like that professional to bring to the work. This includes things like:
- Languages spoken: Evidently, you will need them to speak your target language. If you can find an interpreter who speaks additional languages, this is of course very attractive.
- Knowledge of your industry: Different industries use highly specific language. You may therefore benefit from working with an interpreter who has a good knowledge of the sector. A classic example is medical interpreting – if the interpreter does not know how to translate specific terms, they could misconstrue what the doctor or nurse is trying to tell the patient.
- Flexibility and availability: Naturally enough, you will want to ensure that your interpreter is available the times, dates and hours you need them.
- Certification: Is the interpreter qualified, do they have certificates, and do they have good references?
Ways to find an interpreter
Once you have a ‘wish list’, you can now begin your search. There are many different ways to find an interpreter. Some of the most common methods include:
- Using interpreter directories
- Enquiring with your human resources department to find out if your company has used an interpreter before
- Contacting an interpretation agency
- Word of mouth
- Using social media sites like LinkedIn
- Using Google to find an interpreter who speaks your target language
Alternatives to traditional interpreters
A growing number of organisations are turning to alternative forms of interpreting. While in-person interpreters are essential for certain kinds of language services, they cannot always provide the flexibility, availability and service required. If, for instance, you only need an interpreter for a five-minute telephone call, you would still need to pay the full first-hour rate of most professional interpreters.
And this is where alternatives to traditional interpreting can help. Interpretaion software like Speechly uses smart technology to instantaneously translate human speech between multiple global languages. It then produces an audio file which the listener can respond to. Able to affectively provide both consecutive and simultaneous intertretation, Speechly can be used at any time, and you only pay for what you use. You get all the benefits of traditional interpreting, but with far greater flexibility.