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Working with an interpreter

You should understand how to work with an interpreter before conducting a face-to-face meeting. 

Plan your meeting

  • Ensure you allow more time than a standard meeting.
  • Arrange for the session to be conducted in private away from others and background noise if possible. 
  • Allow time to brief the interpreter and arrange to signal breaks in the dialogue for the interpreter.
  • Ask the interpreter beforehand if there are any key cultural differences you should be aware of.

Start your meeting

  • Introduce yourself to the interpreter and your customer, and describe the purpose of the meeting.
  • Check the interpreter’s NAATI identity card and accreditation details before commencing.
  • Tell your customer that what is discussed in the meeting will remain confidential for all parties, including the interpreter.

Manage your meeting

  • Maintain your role in managing the discussion (neither the interpreter nor the customer should control the meeting).
  • Speak directly to your customer instead of speaking through the interpreter (e.g. ask ‘how can I help you?’). 
  • Avoid looking at the interpreter unless you are directly addressing him/her.
  • Use plain English, avoid colloquialisms and summarise where necessary.
  • Be aware of body language and non-verbal communication. 
  • Ask one question at a time.

Finish your meeting

  • Summarise at the end of the discussion and ask your customer if they have further questions or concerns.
  • Thank your customer and ask if they require a follow-up appointment and arrange an interpreter for that session.

Interpreters and technology

When you’re working with an interpreter over the phone, Skype or by video conferencing, there are some important additional steps you will need to take:

  • Make sure the room you book has the appropriate facilities and you familiarise yourself with operating the equipment before the meeting.
  • Let the interpreter know the type of equipment you’re using (e.g. conference phone, dual handset, single phone or computer) and where you are (counter, private office, hospital ward etc.).
  • Be aware the interpreter may need clarification as he/she has no visual cues (e.g. body language) to assist in the interpreting.
  • Make sure you complete all communication with your customer while the interpreter is on the line—there will be no chance to speak directly to your customer after the interpreter hangs up. 

Please be aware: Technology should not be used as a replacement for qualified interpreting services, but rather to improve access to services.  Read the Queensland Language Service Guidelines (PDF, 651 KB) for more details on the risks and benefits of each type of technology.