Working with Interpreters: Top Tips for Training Course Organizers

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Companies planning to have international participants attend their training courses need to have a clear understanding on how to work with interpreters and prepare for this in advance to deliver the most effective results.

First things first

Before you contact interpreters, you need to have confirmed the location, format, agenda and course content; these factors will have a crucial impact on the language support that is required. When budgeting, you will need to build in travel and subsistence costs for interpreters and subject to location, possibly overnight accommodation for the duration of the course.

Some of the key points to consider during the planning stage are outlined below: you may also want to call on the services of an experienced project manager so they can ensure that your plans are workable and can support you through the process.

The perfect match

When selecting interpreters, in addition to checking they are fluent in the language of the course leaders and participants, make sure they have experience of your industry and terminology.

If the course is mainly being delivered through presentations, simultaneous interpreting is normally the best choice. A team of at least two interpreters will be needed as they work in pairs to maintain the quality of their service throughout the working day. In cases where there is less formal content and more visual or hands on content, it may be possible to use a consecutive interpreter. The interpreter will deliver the presenter’s remarks segment by segment and can assist with language support when delegates are working on practical tasks.

Simultaneous interpreters will usually need equipment to deliver interpretation to the delegates via headsets. This can be done using a portable tour guide kit which is relatively easy to operate and set up. It is also ideal for courses which frequently move rooms or include social tours or factory visits. However, there will always be a little background noise in the room and someone has to be responsible for charging the equipment and collecting everything at the end. A professional booth is relatively soundproof and allows for a smoother professional delivery. However, they do require an on-site specialist technician, enough room in each classroom to accommodate them and time to set up and dismantle.

If you are planning a course with multiple participants, learning streams and locations, you may require a mix of equipment and interpreting styles. In turn, this will affect the number of interpreters and technicians required. It should now be apparent why you need to have the details of your project well in advance.

Planning for success

Interpreting is highly skilled and intense work. Simultaneous interpreters work in pairs but even so they need to have some breaks built into their day. Consecutive interpreters are working alone and must have breaks to ensure the quality of interpreting is maintained throughout the day.

A consecutive delivery will repeat in segments so naturally it takes longer. Think about the extra time needed when setting the agenda. Do not be tempted to create long days and cram everything in, it might save some money but if you want to ensure that your participants get a really good service and understand what is being said, plan accordingly.

Other logistics

Using language services is a major investment so make sure you optimize on it. Have course materials translated and ensure the interpreters have documents well in advance to allow them to fully prepare. Consider a briefing either in person or via teleconference if the subject matter is particularly complex and allow time on the first morning to meet interpreters and ensure any questions can be answered.


A training course can require different teams and equipment on different days and times. It can be quite a challenge thinking everything through, ensuring your plan will run smoothly on the ground and planning all the logistics. Our experienced project managers have great experience in all sorts of training scenarios around the world and would be happy to help with advice and project management. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your training course in more detail.

Top Tips on How to Get the Most Out of Your EWC Interpreters

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The skills shown by our simultaneous interpreters who specialise in EWCs is quite frankly breath taking. Listening to them covering topics at breakneck speed into and out of a second language and just a few seconds behind the speaker is extremely impressive so, understandably, interpreters are fiercely proud of their industry.

In order to protect their profession’s reputation for quality and integrity they will do everything they can to make your event run smoothly. However, there are some simple steps organisers can take to make their lives easier and ensure their delegates get a top quality interpreting experience.

Multi-language conferences are becoming increasingly specialised and technically complex.  Remember, you work for your company year round and its acronyms and industry jargon are second nature. By contrast, an interpreter may be working on several different events every week so the more you can help by providing information in advance, the better prepared they will be for your event.

The main sources of information that interpreters use to prepare are conference documents and internet searches for industry background and terminology resources. In some cases a pre-conference briefing, even a very short one immediately before the meeting, can be a valuable addition to the interpreters’ preparation for a difficult technical meeting.

Aim to provide some or all of the following at least a couple of weeks in advance:

  • program or agenda
  • background papers on the subjects and organisations involved; basically anything you think will add to the interpreters’ understanding of your company and corporate culture
  • PowerPoint presentations and the speakers’ notes
  • documents to be discussed
  • copies of speeches to be delivered
  • multilingual glossaries of the relevant terminology & acronyms
  • summaries or minutes of previous meetings
  • list of speakers and delegates so interpreters can familiarise themselves with participants and any difficult pronunciations speakers’ bios
  • files of any films to be shown so that interpreters can prepare a summary of content

The down side of technology of course means that in the real world, your presenters are often finishing their presentation a day or two before the conference. However even a draft version is helpful to an interpreter and if similar topics are covered each year, it’s useful to send last year’s presentations to give an indication of likely subject matter.

Of course, we understand all files are confidential.  We already have our own confidentiality agreements in place and are happy to sign any additional NDAs and we can also work out the best way to upload sensitive or extra large files.

At the conference itself you should expect the interpreters to arrive at least 30 minutes before the start so if you are providing the technical equipment directly make sure your supplier has everything ready for testing at this stage.

You can also use this opportunity to let the interpreters know any changes or important updates; often for large meetings there will be a liaison interpreter to act as main link between you and the interpreters so you just need to speak to them and they will do the rest.

And while interpreters are talented, they can only interpret what they can clearly hear! Prior to the meeting you need to make sure that the sound level is clear, that everyone has a clear view of the screen and provide wi-fi in the conference room so they can access on-line dictionaries and reference materials as they work. For more handy tips see our previous blog on choosing the right venue for your EWC.

Finally, ensure that your speakers and participants understand how to pace themselves for interpreters. Someone mumbling at 90 miles an hour will make the interpreters’ job extra hard as will several speaking people speaking at once.

A professional interpreter’s role is to accurately convey your speakers’ words and meaning and make them forget they are hearing that through an interpreter. However, they can do this much more easily if they get the right information to do it!