- Regarding the subject. Ask the Client-User to share what will be discussed and any discipline-specific vocabulary they may be using (agenda, handouts, article, etc.). Every field has jargon, even if you are familiar with all the language, the interpretation will be smoother, and it will be easier for you to keep up if you are mentally ready for the direction the meeting will take.
- Ethics. When a Video Remote Interpretation Service (VRIS) starts, the clients enter into an act of trust. They trust that you, the interpreter, will be accurate and will admit or acknowledge when the situation requires more skills, background, or preparation than you have. They trust that you will not become emotionally involved in the issues to the detriment of the interpretation. They trust that you will be discreet about the knowledge acquired during the interpretation or as a result of the interpreting situation.
- Discretion. Your goal is to facilitate communication between individuals and or groups who do not speak a common language. The individuals communicating should remember only each other, you should be a part of the background. To achieve this, be vigilant in making sure that people pay attention to each other and not to you. Dressing in a manner that does not draw any attention towards you is a good practice; therefore, you must remain as invisible as possible.
- Working place. On the job site in your office or home you should be sure to be dressed in a formal manner and make sure that behind you is a white wall without any image, picture, photo, or similar. For this purpose, you can place a frame with a white cloth, behind you, in case you do not have a wall.
- Confidentiality. Everything you hear, read, or interpret is confidential. As an interpreter, it is inappropriate to discuss anything that went on, or any information that was shared, even when the information is meant for the general public. In this instance, seeing yourself as a phone line with no memory is a good analogy. Your role is to facilitate communication between groups or individuals who do not speak a common language. The individuals involved in the communication exchange are the ones who can talk about it. The idea is that the interpreter will not be an information broker.
- Accuracy. Accuracy does not mean providing word-for-word translation. As a bilingual or multilingual person, you know that word-for-word translation is impossible. What accuracy does mean, though, is taking the meaning and intent of the speaker’s statements and translating that to the listener’s language. Some speakers use language that is full of phrases that require knowledge of the culture, such as proper names of programs, places, official roles, and laws. Accuracy means saying as much as the speaker says. This means giving the listener the complete message, including the part carried by pauses, hesitations, or other silent or non-verbal signals that are culturally bound. Accuracy does not mean summarizing what has been said. When providing consecutive interpretation it is important that you manage how much you allow individuals to say at a time. This may require that you interrupt the speaker. It will feel a bit uncomfortable for people at first, but they will become accustomed to the created rhythm. If you need to interrupt the speaker, please be polite, you must say something like “Excuse me, Mr. _______, this is the interpreter speaking, could you please…?”
- Proficiency. Proficiency means that the interpreter will accept only those assignments that are within his/her level of expertise. Saying “no” to an assignment that is beyond his/her level of expertise is professional. There are times when there is not sufficient preparation time for an assignment. This is also an important assignment to decline. It says, “I am maintaining the same high standards as a counselor, a doctor, or a teacher. I am maintaining the standards of the profession of interpreting.”
- Impartiality. Impartiality is critical to quality interpretation. You should decline any requests for your opinion, advice, or recommendation. You may want to decline assignments where you know that the topics will cause you great personal stress. You are the only one who knows how you will handle the material that is being presented. You may find it a welcome challenge, or you may be unable to stay in your role as interpreter. One way to remain impartial is to stay strictly in your role. You are an interpreter. You are not a caseworker, advocate, or any other role that individuals may try to put you during the interpretation.
There are at least three likely negative outcomes, when an interpreter interjects their opinion.
- The interpreter becomes responsible for the outcome of the interaction by virtue of having entered in as an ally or advisor. There could be a problem with the kind or level of service that is being provided. When the interpreter steps into the role of advocate, the responsibility for the outcome belongs to the interpreter. In this example, the interpreter is taking responsibility for the organization’s service.
- By entering into the interaction, he or she encourages individuals who have limited language-speaking abilities to become dependent on the interpreter. Instead of facilitating an independent communication, the interpreter who participates and advises appears to be a vital resource. This source of participation can lead to continued dependency. In addition, it does not honor the intelligence of the individuals and their capability to be responsible for themselves.
- Directly following from the first two points is the possibility that inappropriate expectations will be placed to the interpreter. He/she will be expected to act as an advocate, to give opinions, etc. The clients will have an altogether inconsistent or incorrect notion of what an interpreter’s role and function are if the professionals do not hold to a firm policy of non- involvement and/or impartiality.
Another aspect of impartiality is that an interpreter does not make a judgment about what needs to be interpreted and what does not. This seems obvious based on all that has been said to this point. Let’s look at some examples: A speaker announces that there is a car in the parking lot with its lights on, the announcement should be interpreted. One participant is interrupted by a phone call, the interpreter continues to translate the audible portion of the call. Everything that you can hear must be interpreted.
There are times when either party in the translation interaction may look to the interpreter and say, “don’t say this,” and then want to continue. It is the interpreter’s responsibility to quickly interrupt and inform them that the information must be translated, and translate what has been said. This can be awkward. Clearly letting people know this by introducing your role at the onset of the session can reduce the likelihood of this happening and at least help with the discomfort.