Proper etiquette can remove the awkwardness arising from interacting with a business partner or an audience who is unfamiliar with the English language. This is especially true for consecutive interpreting, where the interpreter will be in the room with you. In simultaneous interpreting where translations are received via headphones, you may not be able to view the interpreter. Still, these ideas can help you get your message across more effectively and drive productive conversations.
Should the interpreter face you or your client?
In an ideal scenario, the interpreter should assume a position where he/she can see you and also face your client/audience when he/she speaks. That being said, it is common for the interpreter to sit opposite his/her client (you) while you converse naturally with the other party. This unobtrusive position is the traditional protocol during diplomatic meetings between heads of state from two different countries.
Placing the interpreter between you and your client is best avoided; your focus must be on your client. You will want to make eye contact with him/her instead of looking toward the interpreter.
The focus is to translate the vocabulary, not the body language
Interpreters’ job is to engage with your message, not your non-verbal cues. They will make eye contact with your audience or even your client, but beyond that, stick to delivering your message. If you start addressing your interpreter, he/she may not initiate eye-contact with you as a passive signal to remind you to continue addressing your client.
It helps to brief the interpreter in advance
Most businesses prefer to keep their language easily comprehensible to eliminate mistakes or misunderstandings in translation. But if your dialogue will include many high-level terms or specialized industry jargon, providing the interpreter with a draft copy of the speech/discussion points will help him/her convey your message better.
An alternative is to go with the flow and allow any issue that crops up during your conversation to ‘fix itself’. For instance, your interpreter can keep translating your sophisticated phrases, and your client can – through your interpreter – request you to clarify something that is not clearly evident. The interpreter may also start taking notes when complications set in.
Pare down long chunks of text
Line-by-line interpretations consume a lot of time; as a practical measure, consider skimming your content. Time efficiency apart, excessive verbiage can be overwhelming for your client – and after an hour of back and forth – you may start feeling weary. If you are not discussing legality and expect to converse more casually with your client, a condensed version works best.
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