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  • Writer's pictureBe Moore Interpreting

Requesting the RIGHT Interpreter the First Time

When Massachusetts special education students attend schools out of their districts, the district is responsible for securing interpreters for meetings. One of our clients is a private school with several community services. We interpret for several of their clients regularly, but we aren’t a part of their district-specific meetings because of the contract rule. This rule has proven to pose a challenge because students and parents get used to an interpreter’s style and can may struggle with someone new.

This week, I went to visit a family we’ve been working with for a while. The family is Spanish speaking and the mom is typically very shy. However, not this week, she was agitated when I arrived. She asked if the interpreter at her child’s IEP was one of ours? I told her that they weren’t and explained the rule. The social worker apologized as she explained that the district brought in an interpreter at the last minute. And, the person was not qualified.

During the meeting, school staff reminded the interpreter regularly of his duties because he stopped interpreting frequently. He didn’t interpret everything, and what was, wasn’t done correctly. Staff members had to jump into to help with the interpretation. The school offered to use the language line, but it was too late. The parent became upset and frustrated because the preparation done [(for this meeting) during the last few months was being thrown down the drain by an unqualified interpreter.

This story is far too typical. Monolingual individuals are consistently making decisions about interpretation or translation services without the know-how or experience. Therefore, leaving their clients feeling frustrated, unheard, and devalued. We believe everyone wants to take care of their clients and to ensure they’re feeling a part of every decision, especially when the choices are about their children. So, let’s talk about potential tactics to use when working with an interpreter.

#1. If a qualified interpreter isn’t available, and access to a language line isn’t an option, reschedule the meeting. Save yourself the embarrassment of watching someone ruin an entire session and/or the relationship with the client.

#2. When requesting an interpreter, give as much detail as possible. For example, a newcomer to the US may need someone that speaks their dialect, so specifying what country the individual is from would be helpful. That way, the interpreting firm can do their best to find the appropriate interpreter.

#3. Let the LEP know from the beginning that they have the right to receive the best interpretation possible. That if at any moment they’re not understanding, they should let you know so you can help out.

#4. Assume responsibility for a lousy interpreter; you requested the person. Apologize and empathize with the LEP’s frustrations.

#5. Give interpreters feedback! Be honest! Let them know what they did well or what they could’ve done better. Feedback goes a long way, and a good interpreter will appreciate it.

#6. Remember, you’re the professional, you know the culture and environment you want to create. If the interpreter isn’t helping you foster it, feel free to reschedule the meeting.

We at Be Moore Interpreting, welcome any feedback. If, at any time, we fall short of meeting your expectations, please let us know. Our goal is to satisfy your foreign language needs and that our community members have full language access in all aspects of their live

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