Global business is more common than ever, making the presence of a professional phone interpreter increasingly important. Hundreds of millions of people are relocating from their birth countries. And as immigration, expatriation and asylum become bigger political issues around the globe, translation and interpretation services have never been more important.
Getting a team of qualified professional interpreters in your corner is vital to your success at any level.
When you’re facing official conversations with legal counsel, medical staff or government agencies, you can’t afford miscommunication.
Many such conversations take place in person. But those that take place over distance require an over the phone interpreter to help you and the other party understand each other.
Related Post: 10 Tips on How to Work with an Interpreter
What is an Over the Phone Interpreter?
An over the phone interpreter (also called an OPI, or a phone interpreter) is a language specialist who helps facilitate phone conversations between the client (that’s you!) and a third party (whomever you’re calling) when you don’t speak the same language.
The conversation takes place as a three-way call, with you, the phone interpreter, and the third party. The phone interpreter simply interprets for you!
Of course, as with anything in the translation world, it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. Finding a top-notch phone interpreter means more than just getting someone who’s bilingual.
The conversation can be awkward at first if you’re unprepared for how it works. Here’s a simple outline for finding and working with a professional over the phone interpreter who will suit your particular needs.
When Might You Need a Phone Interpreter?
When you’re holding conversations over long distances and there’s even a partial language barrier, you need a phone interpreter to make the conversation work. Here are a few key situations when you might need the professional expertise of a phone interpreter:
1. Legal Counsel
Your attorneys need to understand your situation with absolute clarity. It’s just as important that you can hear and carry out their advice. In order to protect your interests to the best of their ability, your legal counsel needs language to be 100 percent clear.
If you’re facing a legal situation where you don’t speak the language, or where your language abilities are limited, it’s a good time to have an interpreter on your team along with your lawyers.
Whether it’s an immigration attorney, a lawsuit, a criminal trial or nailing down the legal terms for your business, a phone interpreter will help ensure that no good counsel is lost.
Related Post: Spotlight: What Do Translators And Interpreters Do?
2. Medical Situations
It should go without saying that when your health is involved, it’s unwise to cut corners. Having an over the phone interpreter assist you in calls to the hospital, doctors office and pharmacy will greatly reduce the chances of a clinical error in your prescriptions, a misdiagnosis, or the ordering of unnecessary tests.
Hospitals that receive federal funding are required by law to offer translation services of some kind. Sometimes this includes over the phone interpreters.
If not, you can quickly find your own. Some phone interpreters are specially trained as medical interpreters also. You can request such a professional to ensure that all of your medical information is communicated with precision.
In an emergency such as an auto accident, you can’t spend valuable time trying to bridge the language barrier. It’s a good idea to have the number to your phone interpreter programmed into your phone for just such an occasion. If you can speed dial them, all the better.
Many emergency communication networks, which you access by calling 911, have language interpretation services available. You should always call 911 first in an emergency. However, if you need to contact other professionals, such as a towing service, could help you out of a stressful situation.
4. International Business
With global shipping, online retail, and print free media, global businesses are becoming more common than ever. Even small businesses serve international markets. When you have clients, colleagues or customers who speak foreign languages, it’s important to show that you care enough to understand what they’re saying.
A professional over the phone interpreter sends a good message about your international competence. On the more practical side, it helps you negotiate deals, land sales, and plan global strategies without any wrinkles or hiccups. Crossing the language barrier opens doors to financial growth.
5. Call Centers
What could be more frustrating than trying to get customer support when you don’t speak the call center’s language? If you’ve ever used a cellphone service overseas, you’ve encountered this headache before. If customer support doesn’t speak your language, they can’t possibly help you.
Call center workers are trained for customer service, but they’re not language professionals. Even a bilingual one won’t necessarily understand your needs. Before you call the technical support line, dial in your phone interpreter.
That way you won’t even have to worry about the language problem on top of your technical problem. You’ll get the customer support you need, as long as the customer service delivers on their end, and the job will be done.
Choosing A Phone Interpreter
Your phone interpreter should be a trained professional. Don’t use bilingual friends or family members, and never use a child. Family members bring a bias, they’re likely to alter what you’re saying, or even answer for you.
Even the most fluent and well meaning family member is no substitute for a trained, professional phone interpreter. Friends are often too casual, and sometimes assume you’ll forgive them for sloppy mistakes.
Furthermore, you need a neutral party so you can be comfortable conversing freely. Some topics can be uncomfortable to discuss freely with family members, or even friends, present.
This is especially important when conducting legal or medical conversations, which can be quite sensitive. A professional phone interpreter is there for one purpose only: to interpret your conversation flawlessly, transparently and professionally.
If you are having a conversation with attorneys, try to find a phone interpreter who specializes in legal interpretation. Similarly, for calls to a doctor, pharmacy, or hospital, look for a medical phone interpreter. These professionals will not just have expert knowledge of their target language, but also of technical terminology in their field.
Research has shown that it’s training, not experience, that reduces interpreter errors. So instead of favoring interpreters who have been working for many years, look for one who has had at least 100 hours of training. Again, legal and medical conversations stand out here, where technical accuracy is paramount.
A good phone interpreter also a strong understanding of the cultures behind their two languages. Therefore they can also help you avoid any cultural misunderstandings or faux pas. Look for a phone interpreter with a clear speaking voice as well.
How to Prepare for Your Phone Conversation
Outline a list of questions or talking points that you need to address. Put them in the most logical order, if for example they build on each other or present a natural sequence. Anything you can do to think through the conversation in advance will make it quicker and easier.
Make sure you have a quiet place with good reception where you won’t be interrupted. Have a pen and paper ready in case you need to make some notes.
These preparatory measure aren’t always feasible. In an emergency situation, for example, you might have to improvise. But don’t worry. Phone interpreters are usually available within minutes or even seconds.
If you do have the luxury of preparing for your conversation in advance, however, make the most of it! The more prepared you are, the more easily you can have a successful conversation through your phone interpreter.
How to Work With Your Phone Interpreter
Your phone interpreter will answer the call. You can ask their name or not, according to your preference. Remember, for the most part you aren’t speaking with the phone interpreter. You’re speaking to the third party. Follow these steps for a smooth conversation:
- Give the phone interpreter some brief context for the discussion
- Speak directly to the third party, using ‘you’ to address them and not the phone interpreter
- Talk at a natural volume, not too loud
- Speak clearly and at a normal pace
- Pause after one or two sentences
- Only ask one question at a time
- Avoid technical language when possible-- don’t use acronyms
- Ask for clarifications when you need them
- Ask if the third party understands
Thriving With Your Over the Phone Interpreter
When you’ve found an excellent over the phone (OPI) provider (and if you’re reading this, you already have!), keep their number handy. You can go back to them again and again when you need a phone interpreter, and trust them to handle your communications with discretion, accuracy and excellence.
Your phone interpreter travels with you everywhere. This makes them an invaluable asset, especially when facing unforeseen circumstances.
When you know you can rely on a professional phone interpreter to bridge the language gap, you have one less thing to have to think about. A professional over the phone interpreter could just give the boost you’ve been waiting for to your personal or professional success! Best of luck!