The Nelson Mandela memorial in Johannesburg, South Africa was planned to be a dignified and befitting send off for a man who touched many lives. Little did anyone know that the occasion would provide the long-awaited platform to dissect and debate an underrated and yet very important profession of interpretation. The debate was sparked by a clearly unqualified interpreter who through questionable circumstances found himself in the midst of world leaders interpreting memorial speeches by global leaders who by a large majority were state presidents.

While the question of how the unqualified interpreter found his way on a world stage will remain a mystery, there are certain precautions that many people can take in hiring and dealing with interpreters to avoid such a debacle.

-The first ground rule is to ensure you hire an interpreter who can show attained qualifications and some sort of professional accreditation. If possible, it’s always advisable to deal with recognised and credible agencies for interpreters. This is particularly advantageous because interpreters used by agencies have typically gone through strict screening processes and are judged to be able to deliver a standard of service that will not embarrass the agency.
-It is vitally important that interpreters are given sufficient documentation with which to prepare themselves. It is often taken for granted that interpreters can automatically interpret any material on the spot, when that could not be further from the truth. Even the most seasoned interpreters need adequate time to research terminology and thoroughly familiarise themselves with the material to be presented.
-It is a healthy precaution to brief an interpreter prior to any face to face meetings. You need to familiarise them with the who’s, what’s and why’s. Copies of any new documentation has been made available should be given to the interpreters especially speeches, concept notes and presentations.
-Try by reasonable limits to avoid unnecessary humour; if a speech is going to involve jokes, it is advisable to consult the interpreter to see if they think it will work if they are interpreted into another language.
-All speakers should be reminded at the beginning of the event that there will be interpretation delivered and they must please remember to speak clearly and avoid speaking too quickly. This will allow the interpreters to maintain the pace of the speakers and avoid any loss of content.
The above tips if used properly and timely can avert any potential problems with regards to hiring and working with interpreters.

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