Making The Best Of On-Demand
We’re on record that in-person interpretation delivers the best results. However, as we see Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations surging throughout the United States, it’s clear that interpreters will mainly be available via video or telephone for some time to come.
Some of these telephone (OPI) and Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) sessions will be on-demand. In other words, you’ll be contacting a language company with an unscheduled (and perhaps sudden) need. Working with an on-demand interpreter has its own set of best practices. Let’s review some methods for making the most out of on-demand interpreting.
Use OPI for short calls.
OPI is a great resource for quick calls or when video cameras are not available. It is important to make sure to inform the language company if you will need the interpreter to make a three-way call.
Use VRI if possible.
Visual cues are important during any conversation, so VRI is worth the extra work needed to prepare a video connection. Many smaller language companies have the ability to use the client’s preferred platform, or provide their own secure platform. Smaller language companies may also offer a pay-as-you-go option, rather than charging a monthly/yearly subscription fee.
Perform a test call.
If procedures at your location have changed—for example, you have used onsite interpreters in the past—or even if you’re just changing the room or equipment used for on-demand interpreting, make a test call to ensure all equipment works and all participants in future conversations will be heard and seen clearly. This is especially important when using video, so that bandwidth or connection issues can be resolved ahead of time.
Make a checklist.
If time allows, create a simple list to ensure all necessary topics are covered. The process of dealing with technology and briefing the interpreter (see below) may tend to “push” items out of your memory that you might otherwise recall.
You may already need to maintain a private setting for the call, especially in a medical environment. But no matter what the subject of the conversation is, minimize interruptions as much as possible. Just like anyone else, an interpreter will do their best work if they are not interrupted. Also, make sure your location for the call is as quiet as possible; “white noise” from background activity can interfere with the conversation far more than you might think.
Allow for a pre-session (introduction), and give them the time they need.
Often, an on-demand meeting is set up with no notice, and the interpreter and Limited English Proficient (LEP) person in the conversation may be speaking with you for the first time. Be sure to provide the interpreter with the context they need to understand the nature of the call. After providing this context, allow the interpreter to introduce themselves and clarify his/her role.
Consider what the interpreter doesn’t know.
If you’re making a change from onsite interpreting to remote, you may be working with someone who is much less familiar with your region and operation than before. Consider using your local onsite provider for remote interpreting. You may be able to request interpreters familiar with your business.
Use basic best practices for interpretation.
Be sure to follow these tips to make sure you are clearly understood by both the LEP and interpreter:
- When you speak to the LEP maintain eye contact and speak to them directly, just as you would if no interpreter was needed.
- Avoid jargon, slang, idioms, metaphors, and acronyms when possible, as they may be difficult to interpret. Keep your speech simple for easy understanding.
- Be as concise as possible.
- Be sure to pause regularly (and to keep your sentences short) so the interpreter may render what you’ve said.
Remember that each on-demand interpreter is different and has a different level of expertise and training. With the right approach, your conversations will keep everyone properly informed and completely safe.