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Working with Interpreters

  • Give background materials to your interpreter well ahead of time so that he or she can become familiar with the subject matter. If you have handouts to give your Russian colleagues, give them to your interpreter as soon as they are ready.
  • Remember that your interpreter is probably not an expert in (fill in the blank: fuel rod assembly, highly enriched uranium, nondestructive assay, etc.). The more time you give him or her to become familiar with the subject, the more effective the interpretation will be.
  • Speak in manageable chunks. This usually means one sentence or two short ones. Try to avoid breaking up a thought—your interpreter is trying to understand the meaning of what you’re saying, so express the whole thought if possible.
  • Go over acronyms and jargon with your interpreters before you start. If this is their first time working with you, they might not know what GUI or C-70 stand for.
  • Avoid sports references and puns. Neither one translates well.
  • Use the first person (speak as you normally would, rather than saying, “Tell him that...”)
  • If you’re reading from prepared text, make sure your interpreter has a copy. It is much harder to keep up with someone who is reading than with someone who is speaking extemporaneously.
  • Interpreting requires intense concentration and focus. It is stressful and tiring. This is why interpreters usually work 30-minute shifts and then take a break.
  • Watch your Russian partner’s body language, even though you don’t understand his words. Nonverbal cues can give you important information about what he’s feeling.
  • A translator is a person who renders written material from one language to another. An interpreter is one who renders oral speech from one language to another. These are two different professions that require very different skills. Interpreters and translators appreciate your using the correct name for their profession.