All interpreting is not created equal

All interpreting is not created equal. A potential client said something along these lines to us recently and we thought, “Wow. This person really gets it.” This might be a hard concept for many to grasp, especially without a background in language learning or bilingualism, however it’s something we find that more and more clients realize and it’s what sets them apart from their own competition. One might ask, “Well, if you have speakers of two languages and an interpreter present, why is not all interpreting considered equal?” Take the incident that occurred at the funeral for the late Nelson Mandela. Onlookers were appalled that the sign language interpreter was signing phrases that made little to no sense and that clearly were not an accurate rendition of what was spoken during the ceremony. South African officials were ashamed and social media blew up over the incident.

Think about whether or not your brand could afford such an incident in the public eye. Vetting and hiring professionals is key in making sure that the individuals who speak on behalf of your brand will deliver. Contracting professional interpreters (or translators) is no different. Imagine this scenario.

You have a business meeting in two days and you’ve hired an interpreter to assist for a two-hour meeting with a potential client who could boost your company’s sales and visibility. You’ve sent all of the materials to be covered in the meeting to the interpreter ahead of time so that he/she can come prepared. On the day of the meeting, the interpreter shows up late and is stumbling through the assignment, obviously ill prepared. You find out later that the client understood very little of the interpreter’s rendition of the content and that there are still many unanswered questions. What could this mean for your company’s potential contract with this new client? Did you just lose the opportunity to do business with them? Do you bring them back for another meeting with a new interpreter? What does this say to your client about your brand?

Most certainly in life mistakes happen, and you might have hired the wrong interpreter for the meeting. However, if mistakes can be avoided, why not take the steps beforehand to ensure accurate interpreting of the meeting and possibly win a contract that could grow your business?

It seems that more and more people are catching on to the concept that our potential client mentioned: “All interpreting (or translation) is not created equal.” Branding is not only about the content your team creates, but rather, in all of your interactions with others. Hiring professionals who are trained and well versed in a specific content area is key for your business. It’s also crucial for interpreting and translation.

Have you ever been in a situation in which an interpreter was present and misinterpreted the content of a conversation or speech? What did the poor interpreting say about the company or organization for which he/she was interpreting?