Tips for working with interpreters

To maximize the effectiveness when working with an interpreter, here are some tips you can use:

Meet with the interpreter beforehand

  • • Clarify unique vocabulary, technical terms, acronyms, jargon, seating arrangements, lighting and other needs.
  • • Provide interpreter with any written materials ahead of time.
  • Reserve seats for the deaf or hard of hearing participants

  • • Provide a clear view of the speaker and interpreter.
  • • Deaf or hard of hearing participants may still choose to sit elsewhere.
  • Interpreter should be in the consumer's sight line 

  • • This allows deaf or hard of hearing participants to pick up visual cues and the expressions of the speaker.
  • • In small group discussions, consider using a circle or semi-circle seating arrangement instead of a theater style arrangement.
  • Be aware of lighting

  • • Provide good lighting so the interpreter can be seen.
  • • If lights will be turned off or dimmed, be sure the interpreter can still be seen clearly (use spotlight or small lamp to direct light toward the interpreter).
  • Talk directly to the deaf or hard of hearing person

  • • Maintain eye contact with the deaf or hard of hearing person.
  • • Avoid directing comments to the interpreter (i.e. "Tell him..." or "Ask her..."), respond directly to the deaf or hard of hearing person.
  • Speak naturally 

  • • Speak at your normal pace. Interpreters will ask you to slow down or repeat if necessary.
  • • Interpreters listen for concepts and ideas, not just words, to render an accurate interpretation.
  • Avoid private conversations - everything will be interpreted 

  • • Whatever the interpreter hears will be interpreted. Do not ask the interpreter to censor any portion of the conversation.
  • • Ask the deaf or hard of hearing person directly if they are following the conversation.
  • One person should speak at a time

  • • An interpreter can only accommodate one speaker at a time. Encourage the group to follow this rule.
  • • If you are facilitating a group discussion, be aware that the interpreter will be several seconds behind. Pause before recognizing the next speaker to allow the interpreter to finish with the current speaker.
  • Avoid asking the interpreter for opinions or comments regarding the content of the meeting

  • • Interpreters follow a code of ethics which requires impartiality and confidentiality with all assignment related information.
  • • Do not assume the interpreter has prior knowledge of the deaf person or will be interpreting future appointments.
  • Provide a short break every hour

  • • Interpreting is mentally and physically taxing.
  • • Do not expect the interpreter to interpret during these breaks.

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