What do interpreters do that translators don’t?

Basically, translators write and interpreters speak.  

Interpreters work by listening to information being spoken in one language and then relaying the message into the language of the listener. They either do this immediately (simultaneous or whispering type interpreting) or after a short time gap (consecutive interpreting) to facilitate meetings, discussions or conferences.

Translators work on written materials and have time to create their translations and also to edit what they write. Interpreters do not have that luxury.

Interpreters work in meetings, interviews, multilingual conferences or on factory tours. More specifically, medical interpreters work with clinicians when they are diagnosing or treating a patient who does not speak their language.

How do I make effective use of an interpreter?

Brief the interpreter: Tell the interpreter what your meeting or conference is about. Let them have background materials advance and where possible, arrange a briefing call with them. Ideally this would all be at least a week in advance of the assignment.

Speak to the client: Conduct the meeting as usual. Talk directly to the person that you need to communicate with. Do not talk to the interpreter.

Speak normally:Try not to speak too quickly or too loudly. Keep your language natural.

Speak in segments:Try not overload the interpreter with too much information.  At the same time don’t break up an idea or a thought. The interpreter is trying to understand the meaning of what you are saying, so give them all of the information in one chunk.

Clarifications:sometimes an interpreter will ask you for a clarification. They may ask you to slow down or even repeat information. Please repeat the same information but maybe in a different way. Try not to add more information to the previous explanation.

Use International English:Explain things using simple language with no use of idioms, slang, acronyms or culturally specific terms. These are difficult for interpreters to interpret. E.g. No ‘sticky wicket’ or ‘between a rock and a hard place’ type expressions.

Length of interpreting:Many concepts that you use may not have an equivalent in other languages. The interpreter may have to describe or paraphrase a term. This will make their interpretation longer than your original explanation. Please do not interrupt them if their interpretation is still being delivered.

Speed: When you are reading a text, you tend to speak much more quickly. Try not to read too fast. Instead, slow down to allow the interpreter to keep pace.

All of our interpreters have at least 3 years experience. They are ready to support you at business meetings, conferences, trade fairs, science and technology fairs and other events at home or abroad.


Don’t hesitate to contact us for advice by email or by  calling 01985 250074 for enquiries. We are happy to help.