When Using a Telephonic Interpreter, Do…

This post is completely unrelated to theology.  My blog is not meant to just talk about theology, but of many different topics.  This post will deal with my experience as a telephonic interpreter in the medical field and what things us interpreters would beg you to be mindful of when utilizing a telephonic interpreter.  Who knows, I might be the one helping you interpret for someone else in Spanish at your workplace!

So when using a telephonic interpreter, do…

  1. Speak loudly: Especially over the phone where there are three of us communicating.  But, try not to speak too loud.  My ears will take the toll eventually.
  2. Enunciate: Don’t drag your words.  Remember, I’m not there.  This is especially important if you have an accent.
  3. Speak slowly: The interpreter is supposed to be an invisible facilitator.  It is the role of the interpreter to facilitate communication to such an extent that the parties can communicate to each other directly as if they spoke the same language.  However, I am not a machine.  I can’t interpret at 300 words a minute.  Slow down and…
  4. Speak in short sentences: Remember I’m trying to help you get a message across as accurate and faithfully as possible.  Help me help you by breaking it down and not going long.
  5. Speak in the first person, not the third: This is a major one.  Saying “Tell her that…” only adds unnecessary words and potential confusion, therefore poor communication.  I’m only here to help you communicate directly to the person.  I’m supposed to be invisible!
  6. Realize I’m here to facilitate communication and tear down language and cultural barriers: I need your help as well as you need mine.
  7. Let me know when you’re talking to someone else or when you are addressing the Spanish speaker: It’s understandable that people forget they have someone on the phone while doing their work, but it’s confusing for me because I am in the dark.  I can’t see you to know who you are addressing.
  8. Be patient: I know you’ve probably had a long day, but it won’t help if you refuse to cooperate or help the conversation flow more smoothly.  The more you cooperate, the faster, the better, and the easier for everyone.
  9. Speak close into the speaker/mic: Some hospitals, clinics or courts have very old or malfunctioning speakers, or very bad signal.  Try to be mindful of that.
  10. Describe to me what you are seeing:  Don’t assume I know what you’re talking about.  You are my eyes.  I am not there.
  11. Don’t practice your Spanish: Often times English speakers want to practice their Spanish or get things over more quickly.  However, this compromises the accuracy of the message conveyed, since I am the qualified linguist specialist.  In other words, let’s make everyone’s job easier by remembering our respective roles and not going beyond those lines.
  12. Try not to interrupt: Often times I will begin interpreting and people want to add information they probably forgot or failed to mention.  We’re humans after all, right?  However, frequent interruption disrupts the flow of the conversation and may compromise the accuracy of the message.  Once you’ve told me what you want to say, wait until I’ve given the interpretation and then add the extra information you wanted to share.
  13. If you have an accent: Be specially mindful of your speed, volume, and pronunciation.  We’re all trying to communicate here, and I know it’s hard if you are learning English, but try to keep in mind I am converting what you say from English into Spanish, and I must be able to understand everything you say.

¡Por favor!


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