Working with interpreters

Preparing for the session

  • Consider if time is required to brief the interpreter prior to the session commencing and if so factor this into planning your session.
  • If required, brief the interpreter on the context to help ensure accuracy in the interpreting. Provide general background information, such as the reason for the session, specific terms to be used and what needs to be achieved. Documents may be provided in advance, where appropriate.
  • For onsite interpreting, ensure the room is set up appropriately. Ideally, seats will be arranged in a triangle with the service provider facing the client.
  • For Auslan interpreting it is normally best if the interpreter is seated or stands next to the service provider and opposite the client.
  • For long sessions, a break for the interpreter should be provided – after 45 minutes (consecutive interpreting); after 15 minutes (simultaneous interpreting).
  • Avoid leaving the interpreter alone with the client, either in the room where the interview will take place or a waiting room.
  • For a telephone or video interpreting interview, ensure you have access to the appropriate telephone or video technology, and understand how to work the system.
  • Advise the client of the name of the interpreter in case they know the interpreter and have any concerns about anonymity. Source an alternative interpreter if there are privacy concerns.

Beginning the interview

  • Introduce yourself and the interpreter to the client.
  • Explain the interpreter’s role, noting that the interpreter’s role is not to add to the communication, but only to interpret what is being said.
  • Explain that the interpreter is bound by the professional interpreting Code of Conduct and that this means the interpreter must protect the client’s privacy.
  • Explain the purpose of the session and what you hope to achieve. Do not assume that the client knows what the interview is about.
  • Explain to the client that questions or concerns can be raised at any time during the interview.

During the interview

  • Talk directly to the client (not the interpreter) and maintain eye contact with the client.
  • Use the first person when speaking to the client. For example, say “What time did you arrive today?” instead of “What time did she arrive today?”
  • Use clear language and avoid using slang, colloquialisms and metaphors.
  • Make one point at a time. Pause at the end of a full sentence. Keep questions, statements and comments short. This allows the interpreter to understand and remember what is being said and to interpret in stages.
  • Allow the interpreter to clarify information with you. If there is a need to clarify, ask the interpreter to explain this to the client first.
  • Allow the client to ask questions or raise issues at any time in the interview.
  • If you have any questions about the client’s cultural background, ask the client directly and not the interpreter.
  • Summarise the discussion occasionally to ensure the client understands the information.
  • Do not for any reason ask the interpreter to edit or omit information.
  • Any direct questions for the interpreter are best asked at the end of the session.

At the end of the interview

  • Summarise key points for the client. Check that the client understands any information you have conveyed.
  • Allow the interpreter to leave separately to the client.

After the interview

  • Debrief the interpreter and discuss any issues experienced in the interview that related to the role of the interviewer or the interpreter.
  • Do not to ask the interpreter to express an opinion about the client or what they have said.
  • Provide feedback about the interpreting session and ways in which the interpreter assisted the interview to run smoothly.
  • Raise any unprofessional or unsatisfactory practices directly with the interpreter at the end of the interview.

Victorian Government policy currently states that NAATI-credentialed Professional interpreters should be engaged. When Professional interpreters are not available, a NAATI-credentialed Paraprofessional or NAATI-Recognised interpreter may be the only option.

For some languages used by communities that have settled more recently in Australia, and also for less common languages, NAATI Professional level interpreters either do not exist or are in short supply. In those cases NAATI Paraprofessional or NAATI Recognised interpreters may need to be engaged.

Working with Auslan interpreters

Auslan interpreters work in a similar way to other interpreters. However, the interpreter will typically need to sit next to the service provider (English speaker) to allow the Deaf or hard of hearing person to maintain eye contact with the speaker, read body language and engage with the interpreter.

Complaints and feedback

NAATI credentialed interpreters are expected to be accountable and comply with the Code of Ethics developed by the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) or the Australian Sign Language Interpreters Association (ASLIA). If an interpreter fails to comply with the principles outlined in the relevant Code of Ethics, complaints should be lodged with the language service provider.

If there are issues with the performance of a specific interpreter, discuss these with the interpreter in the first instance. If not resolved, contact the relevant language service provider to make a formal complaint.

Other issues, such as the interpreter not attending, charging incorrect fees or interpreters with inappropriate level of credential, can also be raised with the language service provider.

Language service providers will generally have a complaints policy and processes to resolve issues. Complaints to a language service provider should include the booking reference number, the interpreter’s name, the date and time of the booking and a clear description of the issue.

You may also wish to raise some matters with NAATI, as the national standards and accreditation body. Any significant feedback can assist NAATI to make improvements to the credentialing system. NAATI can revoke credentials where there has been a serious breach of professional ethics.

In addition to language service provider mechanisms, departments and funded agencies should also provide information on how clients can access their own complaints and feedback mechanisms.