Choosing the best interpreting services for your company can be a daunting process. There are so many providers, so many interpreting fields and options, and various qualifications. Where should you start? Whether you’re looking for general interpreting, VRI, a phone interpreter, RSI, or an in-person simultaneous interpreter, let’s describe the basics.
Levels of Qualification in the Interpreting Industry
While VRI, over phone interpreters, RSI, and in-person are all modes of interpreting, they describe the delivery rather than skill. To find the best interpreting services for your company, you first need to know which interpreting skills you’re looking for. Let’s cover some different “types” of interpreters, based on their qualification levels:
- Simultaneous interpreters are specifically trained to interpret for conferences, conference interpreting, and other events with many people. They interpret a speaker’s words into the target language with no pauses. Also, they listen to the next sentence while interpreting the last. They are the most trained interpreters and often also work as court-certified legal interpreters. Simultaneous interpreters use audio equipment including headsets, transmitters, and soundproof booths.
Court Certified Legal Interpreters:
- Court Certified Legal Interpreters are some of the most qualified interpreters in the industry. They’ve completed hours of legal interpreting training, courtroom shadowing, and health care interpreting training. They typically have years or decades of experience. Court certified interpreters are booked several weeks or months in advance. It’s not necessary to have a court-certified legal interpreter for most assignments unless they’re taking place in an active trial.
Specialized Health care Interpreters:
- Specialized health care interpreters are interpreters who are fully qualified, trained, and often specially certified. They handle more complex medical cases with specific health, anatomy, surgical, and medication-based vocabulary.
- Some trained interpreters decide to specialize in legal interpreting, which requires both a different mindset and different training from health care interpreting. Legal interpreting assignments are significantly more formal and require word for word language interpretation as it is frequently on legal record.
Health Care Interpreters:
- After an interpreter has completed basic training courses, their first interpreting assignments are typically “easy” health care appointments. These include physical and occupational therapy appointments, which don’t require too much specialized vocabulary. “Easy” appointments also include individual therapy, which is conducted more like a conversation. Individual therapy also doesn’t require too much specialized vocabulary. Both of these appointment types give an interpreter a lot of experience and introduction to a client.
- “Informal Interpreters” are foreign language speakers with some experience interpreting. This might include interpreting for family at appointments, government offices, etc. While they’re beginning to gain experience, they lack the training of a professional interpreter. Therefore, they should not be used for interpreting assignments.
Foreign Language Speakers:
- The bulk of foreign language speakers are not interpreters. Interpreting is much more than speaking two languages: it’s understanding the ethics, the role of the interpreter, training, acquiring specialized vocabulary, actively improving your target language skills, and committing to Interpreting as a career choice.
Finding the Best Interpreting Service to Meet Your Needs
Working with an agency is vastly preferable to working with individual independent contractors. With an agency, you have a single point of contact for all of your interpreting needs. You can also often meet your translation needs with the same company. This means that you don’t need to spend time sourcing interpreters, languages, or invoices. You can send a single e-mail to cover all of your questions instead of having to contact multiple people. But how to choose the proper language services agency for your company?
When deciding to work with a specific agency, consider the following:
- Number of services offered (translation, interpreting, language training, etc)
- Outside reviews
There are also a couple of questions you should ask when deciding to use a language services provider:
How do you source your interpreters?
Most reputable agencies will source locally, using resumes, community groups, universities, and national rosters. They’ll have an extensive hiring process (to be discussed on future slides).
What trainings do you require of your interpreters?
Trainings of note include Bridging the Gap, CORE medical, local company orientations, and court certifications. Qualified interpreters can also be determined based on years of experience. Diplomas and degrees are also acceptable proof of professionalism.
What clearances do you require of your interpreters?
Examples include Child Abuse, FBI/fingerprints, State Criminal, flu shots, TB/PPD, etc. Agencies should be able to provide interpreter credentials and clearances on demand.
Knowing what style of interpreting you’re looking for and how you’d like it to be delivered is a great first step. Selecting an agency that will meet all of your needs is the next. The good news is that any time you spend choosing your language services provider is an investment. Once you’ve found an excellent service, you have a one-stop-shop for all the essentials.
Global Arena’s eLearning course: Working with Interpreters in a Professional Setting
Want to learn more about expanding your organization and client-base by working with interpreters? Global Arena’s eLearning course, Working with Interpreters in a Professional Setting, offers tips, tricks, and best practices. It’s an excellent dive into the interpreting industry and will help you select the best interpreting service for your needs. The course is timed for 30 minutes. It’s available on our eLearning platform with no downloads or special permissions necessary. The course consists of a combination of lecture, interactive, and review slides to broadly engage participants and ensure retention. At the end of the course, pending a successful final review, participants receive a certificate of completion. Working with interpreters in a Professional Setting is further customizable to fit your organization’s needs.