American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Tips for Working with an Interpreter

There are certain things that you should be aware of while:

Selecting an Interpreter

  • Determine the interpreter's level of proficiency in English and and in the language used by the client/patient
  • Assess the interpreter's educational background and experience
  • Be aware of the interpreter's communication style
  • Try to use the same interpreter for multliple assignments so that you may establish a familiar working relationship

Prior to the Session

  • Meet with the interpreter in advance to allow adequate preparation time
  • Review the goals and procedures of the test and/or treatment materials
  • Ensure that the interpreter understands your confidentiality policies
  • Explain that the oral interpreter will need to limit non-verbal cues, such as hand gestures and vocal variation, that may impact assessment results
  • Review test validity and reliability to ensure that the interpreter understands the need to avoid unnecessary rewording of testing prompts
  • Establish a rapport with the interpreter
  • Remind the interpreter to take notes on the client's responses
  • Learn greetings and the appropriate pronunciation of names in the family's primary language or signs

During the Session

  • Introduce yourself (as the speech-language pathologist) and the interpreter in the client's native language if possible
  • Describe your roles and clarify expectations
  • Ensure that the interpreter is taking notes
  • Use short, concise sentences
  • Pause frequently to allow the interpreter to translate information
  • Allow enough time for the interpreter to organize the information for effective translation
  • Periodically check with the interpreter to see if you are speaking too fast or too slowly, too softly, or unclearly
  • Understand that words of feeling, attitude, and qualities may not have the same meaning when directly translated
  • Talk directly with your client
  • Be aware of non-verbal body language and gestures that may be offensive to the family's culture
  • Avoid oversimplification of important explanations
  • Provide written materials in the family's native language whenever possible
  • Build in extra time for the session

After the Session

  • Review the client's errors
  • The interpreter should report the client's response as well as the anticipated response
  • Avoid use of professional jargon
  • Discuss any difficulties in the testing process
  • Discuss any difficulties in the interpretation process

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