Your Language

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Tips on Using Interpreters

Tips on Using Interpreters for a Show or Seminar

by Professor Jay Tee,

I was asked to give some tips to a friend, and then forgot about it like half of forever. Hope he can still use these, and since the tips might be useful for others, I’m sharing them publicly, too.
I have also added this as a section in my upcoming book, "Zap My Mind."

  1. Simple, simple, simple. I can’t say this too much. Keep the show simple, keep the language simple. Save the complex shows and speeches for native language audiences only.

  2. Arrange for interpreters well before the event. Some venues hire locals and bring them in at the last minute. Some bring professionals by airplane. Some have them on staff. Nag the venue/hiring company when needed (by email) and get assurances. You don’t want them to forget that you need one, or be blamed for their error.

  3. Meet the interpreters well before the event, if at all possible. You want to assess their level of ability in English. Some interpreters have certifications that say they are great, but their actual level is quite low. You need to know this.

  4. You may meet the interpreter only 5 minutes before the event. Talk to them for a minute anyhow; it helps you tremendously to try and gauge their ability. You should always guess they are somewhat lower than you think.

  5. You must match your speaking level to that of the interpreter’s ability, or lower. It does no good if they are ad-libbing what to say because they must guess at what you said. Especially if you used too-fancy or too-technical words.

  6. If you use a script, go through it and simplify all the language. Practice it with the simpler language. It doesn’t hurt natives when you use simpler speech, either!

  7. If you don’t use a script, then practice, practice, practice until you can avoid the tougher words and phrases easily. You don’t want to be searching your mind frantically for a simpler way to say something, standing in front of 5,000 people. Trust me on that.

  8. Use ONLY short phrases. In some languages, they can’t even start to interpret until you finish the sentence! And if you typically speak in long phrases linked with commas, you’re just asking for trouble. The interpreter may forget whole sections that were essential. Because you didn’t help them do their job…

  9. Short phrases may sound choppy to natives in the audience, but choppy to some is far better than unintelligible to your interpreters.

  10. Expect delays. Your natives will respond first, and then there is a variable delay as your language is interpreted, then the interpreted-for people will respond. You may find them laughing at a joke you made 30 seconds ago, and can barely remember. Just keep on going, and don’t wonder, “Why did they suddenly laugh at me?”

  11. If you have interpreters doing multiple languages at the same time, it can get confusing. You will have multiple delays and multiple delayed responses happening all at the same time. Bull through and keep going. You’re probably doing fine.

  12. Voila! If you followed all the above ideas, you’ve probably wowed the audience and made a whole group of foreign people think you are a genius. Good for you!

Professor Jay Tee.
Kobe, Japan,
April, 2019

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