Finding the right interpreter can be daunting. It doesn’t get much easier once you narrow things down from all interpreters to just conference interpreters either. But, thankfully, there are ways to simplify the process. Here are my top 4 tips.
Be really specific in what you are looking for.
Yes, it sounds obvious but it is actually incredibly frequent to see potential clients search for a “translator” when they need an “interpreter” or even look for “simultaneous translators” and wonder why they just seem to get big agencies.
Right from the outset, it helps to know that interpreters deal with spoken or signed languages and translators deal with written languages. Next up, it is useful to remember that different types of event require different types of interpreters.
Are you hosting or organising a multilingual conference or product launch? Track down a conference interpreter. Do you have a business meeting to hammer out a new contract? You will need a business interpreter or a business negotiation interpreter. Looking for someone to help with a court case? You will need a court interpreter.
The more specific you are, the better your chances of finding the right interpreter from the outset. While some interpreters cover more than one field, you will always be better finding someone who has experience in the type of event you are running.
Tap into local (and international) associations
There really is no better guarantee of professionalism than membership of a national or international association. For a start, many have different membership levels and have strict requirements for moving up the ranks. In addition, the best associations, such as AIIC (the international association of conference interpreters) and ITI (the Institute of Translation and Interpreting) have searchable directories of their members.
The directories held by national associations will often allow you to specify exactly which kind of interpreter you are after and, where location is important, they can even let you search for “conference interpreters in Edinburgh” or “French to English conference interpreters in Scotland”.
It is worth mentioning one last safeguard you get when using members of an association. Almost all reputable associations will have complaints procedures and disciplinary protocols. That means that if the interpreter does not perform to a professional standard, you have a way of sorting the situation out without going through messy and expensive legal procedures.
Google (but be careful)
Of course, the first resource that everyone looks for is the almighty Google. But there is a very subtle trap in this method. Type in “business interpreter” + a city and you are likely to get either an agency or a university programme. You might also get listings from industry platforms like proz.com and translatorscafe.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those listings and some of them may be just right for you but it is important not to equate SEO skills with the ability to deliver excellent interpreting. Not everyone on the first page of google will automatically be someone who is right for your event. Before deciding to go with an agency or picking the first interpreter on the list, you might want to think hard about whether you want to go with an agency or a consultant, for example. You should also do some digging once you hit on a likely candidate. Googling “[company or interpreter name]” + “scam” or checking their records on proz.com or a similar platform will always be a good idea.
And, if you are thinking of using one of the many of platforms to find interpreters, it is much better to use their internal search to contact likely work partners directly than to fire off a job ad and then have to deal with the resulting tsunami of applications.
One of my personal favourite tricks when I need to source interpreters in a new language is to ask the contacts I already have. People respond differently when they are in no danger of winning or losing new work and you might be referred to people who aren’t as easy to find online.
This is why I am always happy to recommend colleagues for work, even when I won’t be involved in the final job. What goes around comes around and I have found that I can get a better result with a single email or LinkedIn message than I can with hours of googling so I want others to have the same experience.
If you have ever worked with interpreters before and you have their contact details, feel free to email them and ask them if they know anyone who can do the work you need done. You would be surprised at how quickly they can come up with a name of a trusted colleague.
And if you have never worked with interpreters before, I would be happy to help you get started. Just send me a message and I would be happy to speed up your search, with no obligation.