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Top 8 Tips for Working Effectively with Interpreters: Part 1

Jul 15, 2014

“Oh no, I’m going to have to use an interpreter with this customer? This is going to be a nightmare…”

Have you ever found yourself thinking this? I’ll admit, using an interpreter does add another step in the communication process and, if you aren’t prepared for it, can cause a few headaches. Fortunately, contact centers and language service providers have come a long way in the last several years, and most businesses are far beyond these days:

Funny Clip from HBO’s “Getting On” TV show: Language Barrier (you won’t regret watching this)

Voiance interpreters are trained professionals who are there to help make communication in another language an easy process. It’s not only the interpreter’s job, however. You can help to make things easier by knowing how to work effectively with an interpreter. If you prepare yourself with our 8 simple tips, the interaction will be well on its way to being seamless. We will cover the first 4 tips in today’s blog post.


1 – Allow the interpreter to greet you and provide an interpreter ID number.
All interpreters have a short script that they need to go through. Let them introduce themselves and state their ID number. This is necessary for many facilities who record this information. It’s short and sweet, I promise.

2 – Write the interpreter ID number in the patient’s file or progress notes.If your facility requires you to track interpreter ID numbers in client documents, be ready before you make the call and be sure to write this down at the beginning. The interpreter will state this information again at the end of the call if you missed it the first time.

3 – Provide the interpreter with a brief explanation of the call.
Giving the interpreter a few sentences of background information on the purpose of the call provides the context interpreters need to be more effective. In some cases, this pre-session dialogue can mean a world of difference. It may be helpful to let the interpreter know if this will be a routine follow up, or a delicate situation so that they can prepare to convey the appropriate tone. For example, “Hi interpreter, I’m here with Mrs. Lin to follow up on her recent auto insurance claim.”

4 – Allow the Interpreter to introduce him/herself to the customer.
The interpreter will quickly explain to your customer that they are a professional interpreter and will be interpreting everything they say. Not only does this help clarify what is happening for the customer, especially in phone interpretation scenarios, it often times is very reassuring to clients. This interpreter introduction may be a meaningful point in their experience where they understand that you and your company cares about them and will communicate with them on any level. It can be a key step in the client experience.

Look out for Part 2 where we cover the next 4 steps to making communication with non-English speaking customers that much easier!