Engaging an Interpreter

Interpreters convey the meaning of speech from one language to another. Translators transcribe the written form of one language into another language. In some situations it is necessary to have an interpreter to assist you. Using a qualified interpreter ensures accuracy and also avoids distortion or omission.

When do I need to use a professional interpreter?

  • When you need to convey important information to your client.
  • If your client is distressed – when someone is stressed, she/he will revert to using her/his first language.
  • If your client’s partner speaks little or no English and he/she is involved in caring for your client. Carers should be engaged in the process.
  • When arranging a family meeting.

Don’t rely on bilingual family members to be the interpreter/s.

Why do I need to use a professional interpreter?

  • Interpreters are fluent in both languages and they are trained to deliver accurate meaning without omitting any information or terms.
  • Impartiality is important in communicating meaning. Professional interpreters are not emotionally involved with your client so they don’t alter any information being conveyed. Family members can misinterpret information and may deliberately not interpret some information.
  • Confidentiality of client information is an important part of service provision. The interpreter’s professional code of ethics protects the confidentiality of client information. This may be at risk when family members or community contacts are the interpreters.

How do I access a professional interpreter?

First, you need to establish whether or not your service has access to government funded interpreter services. If you are able to access such services follow existing procedures in your organisation to book an interpreter.

If you are unable to access government funded interpreter services you should investigate your organisation’s budget allocation for the provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate services. There are a number of agencies through which you can access interpreters at a fee for service, including TIS, VITS and ON CALL.  You can also access interpreters directly through the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) whose members are all qualified professional interpreters.  Please refer to Interpreter Services for further information on these organisations.

Before you book an interpreter:

  • Find out your client’s preferred spoken language.
  • If you require only brief communication then book a telephone interpreter.
  • For more complex or detailed communication you need to book an on-site interpreter.
  • Work out for how long you will need the interpreter – always estimate twice the amount of time you would require with an English speaker, as everything needs to be said twice, once in English and once in Arabic.
  • Choose a date and time which suits you, your client and or his/her family members, as well as any colleagues involved in your client’s care. Cancelling an interpreter service appointment may incur a fee.

How do I work with an interpreter?

  • Introduce yourself to the interpreter. Brief the interpreter on the purpose of the session.
  • Introduce yourself and the interpreter to your client. Explain your role and the interpreter’s role to your client.
  • Explain the purpose of the session to your client.
  • Speak directly to the client. Use his/her name, eg, “Mr……………, I want to talk with you about …………………”
  • Use clear language, avoiding service-specific terms and lengthy sentences. Speaking in plain English is most effective for the purpose of interpreting.
  • Ask the client to explain, in his/her own language, what she/he has understood from you, eg, ‘Amal, I have explained a few things today. Can you tell me what you have understood, so we can both be clear?’

For further information on working with interpreters, download the Victorian Government’s document below: