I’ve recently blogged about a useful guide in Portuguese that students at Universidade do Minho published to educate clients on how to find, hire and work with translators here.

Now, I’d like to give two thumbs up to Getting It Right: A Guide to Buying Interpretation Services, published by the ATA. Here are a few highlights:

  • Translators write, interpreters speak. Simple, but easily confused by clients who may not have worked with language professionals in the past.
  • Interpretation is not for the faint of heart and demands: concentration, memory and nerves of steel
  • While good-intentioned friends, family and non-professionals may be bilingual, their interpretation cause undesirable outcomes for the patients in a medical setting or in important business transactions
  • Consecutive interpretation involves turn-taking, and is often used in medical, certain court proceedings and telephone settings. Interpreters may need special telephone equipment, microphone and headsets. Simultaneous interpretation entails talking at the same time, with the interpreters in a separate area than the speakers or maybe a booth. Interpreters will probably need headsets, microphones and even a booth. Sight translation involves the oral translation of a written document, sometimes with little or no preparation
  • Planning regarding the venue, number of speakers, number of people in the audience and even where to physically place the interpreter is essential when hiring interpreters
  • Identify languages and countries speakers and participants come from for a better interpretation experience
  • Send presentations and any other background material to your interpreters in advance, so interpreters can prepare, do terminology research and ask questions
  • Always test the equipment and the technology being used first for sound levels, static, etc.
  • Budget for travel time and transportation expenses: they are usually charged when it takes more than a defined time to reach the assignment site. Transportation costs are added to this. For a longer assignment, plan to cover all interpreter expenses, including meals and hotel.
  • ASTM F2089 recommends using teams of 2-3 interpreters per language pair in each session of continuous interpreting lasting longer than 45 minutes. Out in the field, the market standard differs only in the number of minutes per session:
    30 instead of 45. Should you venture abroad, be sure to check local conditions: in Brazil a full day of conference interpreting is 6 hours long and lunch break is 2 hours, compared with 7 or 8 hours and one hour in Europe.

In short, Getting It Right: A Guide to Buying Interpretation is a quick and informative must-read for anybody planning to hire an interpreter or managing an interpretation project in the near future. It is based on ATA’s Getting It Right: A Guide to Buying Translation, another very useful guide for translation services published by the American Translators Association.


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