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Working with Interpreters

By February 26, 2013October 24th, 2018Insurance Blog, Melody Mosley
Melody Mosley

Melody Mosley

If you don’t understand a language spoken, how do you know if the interpreter is doing a good job? Interpretations should be as accurate as possible, with the answer in the first person. The truth is, it is difficult to know if the interpretation is completely accurate.  Here are some key points that will help to determine and ensure accuracy when working with interpreters:

  • Not every sentence in English translates to the same length in another language, but interpreters tell me that most of the time, the length should be similar. Watching for similarities in length will ensure that the interpreter is interpreting and not explaining the question.
  • Avoid using expressions. According to a Spanish interpreter I spoke with, English expressions, such as “the icing on the cake” are difficult to interpret.
  • Be aware that some languages, like Armenian, do not use a gender. Therefore, you should be specific to make sure that your question is very specific, preferably with proper names rather than “he” or “she.”
  • Being specific is always a good idea. For example, asking how the insured got to the doctor’s office might bring a variety of responses but asking the insured if he or she walked to the doctor’s office might bring a more accurate response.
  • Discuss beforehand whether the interpreter will be translating simultaneously. This works best when the deponent does not understand or speak English. If the deponent does understand and speak some English, you run the risk that the deponent is listening to both the questioner and the interpreter simultaneously and may be missing some of what is being asked. If the interpreter is translating a sentence or more at a time (translating consecutively), make sure that you are giving meaningful portions to translate but not too much at a time.
  • Give the interpreter a break every hour or so in order for them to stay fresh.
  • Ask particularly important questions a couple of different ways to make sure that it is apparent that the witness understood the question.

Consider using a certified interpreter. The uncertified interpreter may be just as good as or even better than the certified interpreter, and certification outside the courtroom is not required in California, but if the insured later complains that he did not understand the interpreter, you may wish you had hired someone certified.  Certification is offered through the Judicial Council.