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Best Practices for Successful Event Interpretation

If you’re holding a meeting with multilingual attendees, one of the quickest ways to make sure everyone gets your message is to hire an interpreter to deliver spoken content from one language into another… and, when necessary, back again.

Your interpreter’s goal is to deliver your complete message precisely, without additions or deletions, embellishments or simplifications. This doesn’t necessarily mean the interpretation will be literal; a word may mean one thing in your language and another in your attendee’s.

Since interpretation requires a great deal of concentration and quick thinking, it’s important to deliver your remarks in a clear fashion that won’t take long to translate into another language. Here are some ways to make it easier for your interpreters to deliver successful event interpretation.

Minimize distractions

Interpreting requires a high degree of mental concentration. A loud, noisy environment makes it harder to concentrate. Whenever possible, place the interpreter in a setting free of distractions.

Soundproof cabins and headphones are the best way to do this during in-person meetings, while interpreters at virtual meetings benefit when non-speaking participants are muted. It also helps if virtual attendees speak and listen through headsets; if a speaker is talking from a noisy room, the noise may make their comments harder to hear.

Make sure speakers are audible

Interpreters cannot convey what they can’t hear. This is particularly true during live meetings, particularly large ones. To make sure the interpreter can hear the proceedings (and everyone else, for that matter), use a PA system whenever possible.

Provide microphones to all speakers and ask them to speak directly into it; partially heard sentences are hard to interpret, if not impossible. If someone speaks away from the microphone, repeat what was just said, as there’s a good chance the interpreter was unable to hear it.

This can happen during virtual meetings as well. If someone is speaking while muted – which happens a lot – no one will hear it, including the interpreter. Ask speakers to unmute their microphones before beginning.

Whatever the meeting format, it also helps to ask speakers to talk slower than usual, enunciate clearly, and avoid trailing off.

Do not rush through presentations

Many interpreters provide simultaneous interpretation, which implies interpreting in real time. In fact, “real time” in this case means interpreting as many as 1-2 sentences behind the speaker, at a rate of around 140 words per minute.

If you speak extremely fast, your interpreter may not be able to keep pace, and portions of your message may be lost. To ensure that your non-English speaking audience receives your entire message, pace your presentation accordingly.

Also, remember how quickly simultaneous interpreters must translate the words they’re hearing. This requires a high level of concentration, which can be hard to maintain for an extended period of time. This is why many interpreters work in pairs, trading off every 15-30 minutes. This keeps the quality of interpretation consistent throughout the presentation.

Speak loud AND clear

Because of the different grammatical structures between languages, the interpreter must generally wait for a sentence to be completed before interpreting. At the very least, the interpreter must reorganize the elements of a sentence to fluently convey the message.

If your sentences are long and complex, this process will take longer. On the other hand, short, simple sentences are easier and faster to interpret.

Also, avoid crosstalk. Interpreters can interpret one person at a time, but not several, so make sure one person has stopped speaking before another one starts. If someone talks over someone else, remind them of the rule.

In that same vein avoid jokes, plays on words and idioms. They’re almost always impossible to interpret on the fly.

Provide materials to the interpreter

Your attendees may understand the technical jargon or terminology spoken at your meeting, but not if they’re interpreted by someone who doesn’t. Even interpreters with experience in your industry may not know the terms used by your business.

Provide interpreters with relevant materials before the meeting starts. Hand them a glossary of terms or presentation slides if you’re meeting in person or email them before your virtual meeting. This will give them time to become familiar with your content, and the more prepared they are, the better the interpretation.

The reason to recruit an interpreter is to make sure your multilingual participants can follow the event in (almost) real time. By following these tips, you can be sure successful event interpretation gives all your attendees the information they need.

Need interpreters for your next meeting? Contact our interpretation team today.

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