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Chapter 4
How to Interpret an Industry Discussion Call

Make no mistake: this kind of work is challenging. Even if you’re an interpreter with dozens or hundreds of on-site interpretation assignments under your belt, remote interpretation (and, as we’ll see, industry discussion call interpretation) can take some getting used to.

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Be a proactive problem solver

Technical difficulties, no-shows, clients dissatisfied with their experts: you’ll encounter all of these problems at some point during your career. While you can’t ensure that they’ll never happen (that’s the arranger’s job!), you can be a proactive troubleshooter. Take the initiative to reach out to the expert network POC when an issue occurs and your client will love you for it.

Getting off on the right foot

Even for clients who’ve participated in dozens of industry discussion calls, it may be their first time interacting with an interpreter.

To ensure both client and expert feel comfortable interacting on the call, English-French interpreter Alexandra Schmidt offers a 2 minute introduction outlining how to successfully utilize an interpreter before every call. She says, “I always tell both parties outright that my main goal is for both parties to understand each other perfectly. The two major guidelines I share before the call begins are:

  • Feel free to interrupt me should there be anything that is unclear or necessitates repeating. I may also do the same should there be something unclear to me;

  • Pause during longer answers to allow the interpreter to render interpretation.”

Alexandra Schmidt
English-French Interpreter

Reading the client’s tone

As you can imagine, the speed at which information is relayed on a call is a close second in importance to the information itself; after all, these clients are often paying upwards of $1300 USD/hour for the expert’s time.

Chinese-English interpreter Rob Xia remarks: “An important factor during the call to keep in mind is the client’s sense of urgency. A combination of a verbose (and perhaps not so knowledgeable) expert and an impatient client can result in a poor experience for the client. If and when I encounter such a situation, I tend to take a more active hand in moving the conversation along.”

Rob Xia
Chinese-English Interpreter

Client-focused mediation

During your industry discussion call interpretation career, you will almost certainly encounter at least one expert who loves to give long-winded answers that may or may not be germane to the discussion. While it may be common practice to interpret the full answer as-is, this will frustrate the client as it uses a great deal of valuable time while providing no useful insight.

While preserving the integrity of interpretation is important, Thai-English-Dutch interpreter Juree Siangsuwan notes that, “the client’s satisfaction is your most important ‘KPI.’ Always consider whether or not the information the expert is delivering is in line with what the client initially asked. If not, it may be necessary to clarify the question and ask the expert for a more direct answer.”

Juree Siangsuwan
Thai-English-Dutch Interpreter

Active communication

Regardless of the mediation strategy you employ, provide a consistent string of updates for your client in addition to interpreting the expert’s speech. To expand on the previous hypothetical, if the expert provides an evasive or unclear answer, ensure that you inform your client of the situation before reengaging with the expert. Popular strategies have included:

Summarize the expert’s answer, then ask if the client would prefer a more detailed interpretation or if they’d rather pose the question a second time.

Yui Hosokawa
Japanese-English Interpreter

Interpret the first section of an irrelevant answer before asking the client if this answers the question; if not, offer to propose the question a second time.

Jingyi Wang
Chinese-English Interpreter
Smile while you talk

Positivity makes a huge difference! “Without visual cues,” says Korean-Japanese interpreter Yoonsun Park, “it’s easy to misinterpret the tone of a party on a phone call. That’s why it’s essential that you maintain a positive, friendly tone of voice throughout the interaction. Smiling as much as you can helps!”

Yoonsun Park
Korean-Japanese Interpreter
Be prepared for on-call research

Always prepare for the worst. “No matter how well-prepared you are for a call,” says Chinese-English interpreter Tiff Sun, “you should always be prepared to encounter a word or phrase you don’t recognize. Make sure you have your computer and a stable internet connection at the ready throughout the call.”

Tiff Sun
Chinese-English Interpreter

Peak professionalism

Above all, understand that your success is based largely on your client service acumen. Be calm in the face of adversity, be patient, and never lose your cool!

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