These 5 tips will help the interpreting process run smoothly

For weeks already, you’ve had a stomach ache. You finally decide to go to the doctor. The doctor immediately asks you a lot of questions: your eating patterns? stress? However, as an asylum seeker, telling someone what’s troubling you is never easy. Let’s be honest, what does the word “maag” mean anyway? Nobody knows this word in Eritrea. There they say, “my abdomen is bothering me”.

This regional and culture related language is difficult for an interpreter. Try to figure out on the telephone that the word “stomach” is meant, when the word “abdomen” is used. This confusion can cause a bit of aggravation for the client. Logical, but luckily, it can be prevented. In this blog you’ll read how you can help the interpreting process run smoothly.

An OV chip whaaat?

“Can’t I just buy a card on the bus, and pay in cash?


In the Western world, we usually do not think twice about it: touch-free payments, Teslas and bitcoins, just an ordinary day. Yet it is good to take a moment to reflect on the situation of an Eritrean asylum seeker. At the moment that they, via an interpreters, start a conversation with you. The chance is great that, day after day, you will see that they have been surprised by our Western world.

Interpreting accurately is vital

Take medical situations. A good interpreter must comply with a few techniques and codes of conduct. For example: translate literally and be impartial. Some interpreters don’t pay much attention to these rules, but if you work with a professional interpreting agency, you won’t have any problems. Are you always guaranteed a flawless conversation with those rules in place? No, not always.

This often goes wrong in the interpreting process

Sometimes a foreign language needs several words to express something, while in Dutch, it’s clear with just one word. Therefore, translating a question may take longer than the client expected. It then seems like the interpreter is adding to the text, while this is not the case. That can be irritating. An interpreter may also come from another culture, and be accustomed to other forms of behaviour. While you may expect more directness, this may make the interpreter uncomfortable. All these things can disrupt the flow of the conversation.

This way you’ll make sure that the interpreting process runs smoothly

Good preparation is half the work, and this applies to an interpreted conversation as well. With these 5 tips, you’ll make it a lot easier for yourself, your client, and the interpreter!

Tip 1. Be transparent

Make sure that you are open from the very beginning. Is something taking too long? Then immediately ask why it’s taking a bit longer, and don’t wait until you get annoyed. This way you’ll create a safe environment in which the interpreter will feel free to explain what’s going on in your specific situation.

Tip 2. Make agreements with your interpreter in advance

For a conversation to run smoothly, it’s good when an interpreter makes it known that he/she is explaining something to the client. Structure will be created in a conversation and that will be appreciated by all parties. Before the conversation, discuss with the interpreter how you both are going to tackle the situation. This way you’ll prevent any misunderstandings and confusing conversations.

Tip 3. Give yourself the time

It sounds logical, and yet it often doesn’t happen: schedule plenty of time for an interpreted conversation. Interpreting languages such as Tigrinya and Arabic take time because of the difference in vocabulary. It would be a pity if the interpreter is unable to finish his/her sentences due to a lack of time.

Tip 4. Use the “I” form

Always ask the interpreter to speak in the “I” form. For example: “Where do you have pain?” Instead of: “Can you ask the patient where he is in pain?” This doesn’t just save time, but you also connect directly with your client. And that’s what really matters in the end.

Tip 5. Be prepared

Do you have a lot to do with asylum seekers or status holders due to the type of work you do? Then it’s a good idea to dig a bit deeper into the background of the most common languages and cultures you may be exposed to. For example, due to the refugee crisis going on right now, Syria and Eritrea. You’ll be a bit more prepared with what you can expect, and it’s nicer for your client to begin a conversation as such.

Want to know more about how the interpreting process works?

Then have a look at our interpreting page. Or would you like to hire a professional interpreter directly? That’s also possible! Please call +31 (0)20-8202807, and we’ll be happy to help you further.