Internal Bilingual Employees and Outsourced Interpreters

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The International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) recently surveyed contact centers on “The Impact of Multilanguage Support on Customer Experience.”

Contact centers sometimes believe they must choose between either internal, bilingual agents or outsourced interpreters.

Is one choice better than the other?

First of all, ICMI’s data suggests that using either bilingual agents or outsourced interpreters produces great customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores: 72% said support in a customer’s native language increased their satisfaction with customer support, while 58% said it increased loyalty to the brand.

But is outsourcing multilanguage support through interpreters worthwhile?

Well, according to the white paper from ICMI:

82% of contact centers … say that CSAT scores for their external interpreters are better or equal than for their internal bilingual agents!

CSAT graphAn Illustration of the ICMI data

What explains high CSAT scores for interpreters?

Well here is one theory: contact centers often recruit, train, and monitor their bilingual agents in English. Those bilingual agents may have poor language skills – but how would you know?

Interpreters, on the other hand, know the language and imitate your training. Interpreters are professional language conduits. Basically, their job is to accurately mirror all the great training you give to your agents but in a different language.

If you do not have an interpreter service – or you want a company like Voiance that has a minimum of 120 hours of interpreter training – perhaps it’s time you tried.

80% of foreign-born Americans speak a language other than English. Voiance Language Services provides multilingual support in over 200 languages to business and government. Our employee interpreters receive 120 hours of training, including language testing and instruction in listening and recall. Organizations use Voiance’s telephone interpretation to facilitate communication with customers. Voiance is a subsidiary of CyraCom International, Inc., the largest provider of Phone Interpretation that operates solely in the United States.

Lost in Translation: the importance of accurate translation for every business

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Accurate translation is necessary for seamless business functions. One of the most common mistakes a business can make is to treat language translation of materials as an afterthought.

“Companies with great products/services that have a lot of potential in foreign markets take two steps backward because they had a lax attitude toward translating their product information correctly,” said Jerry Pacheco, director of the New Mexico International Business Accelerator.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) experienced several issues with the launch of its Spanish website, CuidadodeSalud.gov, namely that of accurate translation. The name of the site itself translates to “for the caution of health.”  In this case, the erroneous English-to-Spanish translations appeared to be computer-generated and caused delays in Spanish speaking citizens being able to sign up for the new health care. Around 12% of the 317 million people in the US only speak Spanish, but only 4% have called about enrollment.

Tips to avoid this kind of embarrassment:

  1. Avoid computer-generated translations because they overlook the context of a word AD Blog picor phrase. It is difficult for a machine to capture the correct meaning if a word has more than one. Machines also cannot pick up on any cultural or social contexts within a document.
  2. When working with translators, provide clear instructions and submit well-organized files to be translated. Inform the translator about what the subject is. The more detail provided to the translator, the more accurate the translation will be.
  3. Proofread the material for spelling, grammar and punctuation. Spelling or grammar mistakes can cause incorrect word translations, possibly affecting the overall meaning. Punctuation itself can change the meaning of sentence as well, so it is important that the translator receive the material after being proofread in the original language.

The best way to have materials translated is to use a certified translator with verified references. Translators are able to identify named entities and concepts a machine would overlook. They can also translate non-standard speech and language-specific puns.

Voiance specializes in translating documents that are true to your company’s image and messaging, while remaining sensitive to your customers’ needs. We work with any type of file format to deliver complete documents within your budgetary and timeframe requirements. Our expert US-Based project managers know what printed translation requires in virtually every industry and department in organizations of all sizes.

Interpretation or Translation?

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The words “interpretation” and “translation” as they are used casually in the English language have completely different definitions in the language services industry.

For example, if used casually, the word “interpret” sounds like a rough explanation of theSitting-Female-Interpreter---Elizabeth original and far from being an accurate word-for-word translation. In actuality, for their professional definitions, these words have less to do with the level of accuracy and more to do with the mode in which they are done. Interpretation is the word used for spoken and sign languages and translation is exclusively used to refer to act of translating written works.

Additionally, more than just the definition, these two professions require completely different skill sets. This blog post will explore some of these critical differences.

Direction and fluency

In interpretation and translation, the official terminology for the language of the original spoken or written message is called the Source language. The language to which the message is being interpreted or translated is called the target language.

Properly trained interpreters, including Voiance interpreters, have the ability to interpret back and forth between both the source and target languages. Translators on the other hand, rarely translate both directions: they usually translate from their learned language into their native language.

Delayed versus real time

Translation takes a lot more time to deliver than interpretation because what is translated has to convey the exact tones, meanings, and nuances as the original text. In their work, translators usually have access to glossaries, dictionaries, and even experts to make sure the meaning is translated exactly as the author intended.  According to the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), “a translator may translate 2000-3000 words a day, while an interpreter has to keep up with around 150 words a minute.”

There are many ways to interpret, but the most commonly used forms of interpretation are:

  1. Simultaneous interpreting; “providing the target-language message at roughly the Standing-Female-Interpreter---Elizabethsame time as the source-language message is being produced.”
  1. Consecutive interpreting; “waiting until the speaker has finished before beginning the interpretation.”

In simultaneous interpretation, interpreters do not have time to look up words or phrases and must rely on their own prior knowledge. While simultaneous interpreters strive to retain the exact tone and meaning as the source message, they may not have time to include nuances or render absolutely perfect interpretations.

At Voiance, our interpreters use consecutive interpreting which allows them to consistently and accurately convey the tone, meaning, and nuances of the original message.  Our interpreters’ high accuracy rate is in part due to rigorous note-taking, listening, and memory skills. Using consecutive interpretation, our interpreters are also able to look up terms, request repetitions and verify critical information to ensure accuracy.

Translating and Interpreting

While there are many similar aspects to the work done by interpreters and translators, as you can see, the qualifications and skills needed are completely different and interpreters and translators do not swap jobs easily. To read more about the skills needed by an interpreter, go to our blog post here.

 

Five of the Top Ten Ways to Create Loyal Customers (Part Two)

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How do you create customer experiences that will amaze every customer every time?

In our last blog entry we shared five tools that Shep Hyken gave us in our webinar for creating loyal customers. As promised, here are the other five.

What is customer amazement?
Truly amazing organizations are always, predictably and consistently better than average. customer satisfaction“When you manage that customer experience to be better than average every time, you are in that zone of amazement.”

Here are the final five tools from Shep Hyken to help your organization amaze your customers every time and create loyal customers:

6.Ask extra questions.
Ask questions that the customer might not think of to ask. This will ensure they get all they help they need in one call or trip to your company.

7.You can’t be good at everything.
Know what you are best at and emphasize those strengths. You can win over customers with great customer service, even if you are a little more expensive.

8.Tell your story.
Provide great customer experiences that people can’t help but share. Let your story be told through your customers.

9.Debrief on Moments of Misery and Moments of Magic.
Be sure to review your successes as well as your failures. Learn from your mistakes so they don’t continue to happen.

10.Create demanding customers.
Provide such great customer service, that your customers begin to see your level of service as the standard.

Five of the Top Ten Ways to Create Loyal Customers (Part One)

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What makes the difference between satisfied customers and loyal customers?

Customer service speaker and bestselling business author Shep Hyken answered this amaze book_smallquestion and more in a recent webinar with Voiance. Shep shared 10 ways to create loyal customers, and you can find five below and five more will come in February’s blog. Of course, you will get the most details from out Shep’s book, Amaze Every Customer Every Time.

Satisfied vs. Loyal Customers
Studies have shown that 40% of satisfied customers won’t return to your business. This is because “satisfactory” isn’t good enough to create loyal customers. You have to be better, you have be what Shep refers to as “amazing”.

Here are five of Shep’s top ten tools to help your organization amaze your customers every time and create loyal customers:

1. Act like you own the place.
Take responsibility for what you do. Empower your employees to act like the owner and make good decisions for the customer.

2. To be the best place to buy, be the best place to work.
Creating a work culture that is focused on the customers as well as the employees. Make the environment such that the employees feel excited to work there.

3. One to say yes, two to say no.
Traditionally you have to get approval from a manager to do something special for a customer. This is flipping that around and saying you should only have to get permission when you can’t do something for your customer. You figure out what it’s going to take to make that customer happy, and do it.

4. Know the value of your customer.
Knowing your customer’s worth to your organization, will help you decide the best way to take care of them.

5. Avoid Loyalty Killers.
• “It’s against company policy.”
• “It’s not my job.”
• You’ll have to talk to [fill in name], and he/she won’t be back until tomorrow.”

Immigrant Population Shifts Outside Traditional Areas

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When you think about where immigrant populations usually live, which states do you think of? California, New York, or Texas?

While that may have been true in the past, over the past decade there has been a gradual shift away from these obvious destinations. More and more immigrant populations are moving to states and cities that would have not been traditionally considered a hub for immigrant populations.

Where Are They Going?

Over the last decade, the limited-English population has grown by more than 25% in 21 states. And according to the US Census, “61 counties crossed the threshold of having a population of more than 5% limited-English speakers.”

The top ten states with the highest growth rates of LEP populations are:

  1. Nevada
  2. North Carolina
  3. Georgia
  4. Arkansas
  5. Tennessee
  6. Nebraska
  7. South Carolina
  8. Utah
  9. Washington
  10. Alabama

A Change in the Landscape

We will still continue to see major immigration to the usual destinations, but those destinations are expanding further and further across the United States. The Washington Post created a map that highlights where 10% or more of the population speaks a language other than English at home. The map shows where immigrants have settled and are continuing to settle beyond states like California, Texas, and New York.

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According to the Migration Policy Institute, “While many LEP individuals are still attracted to the historic immigrant-destination states of California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Florida and Illinois, significant numbers are opting to settle in nontraditional destinations in the Southeastern, Southwestern, and Northwestern United States.”

Why are they going?

The short and sweet answer: jobs.

William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer, has studied the immigrant migration within the United States. “The fast growth of construction and low-skilled jobs, plus the general affordability of parts of the South for upwardly mobile Hispanics, has made the South a key destination,” Dr. Frey said.

Audrey Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, also noted that while immigrants are still attracted to the traditional immigrant hubs like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles – mostly to join friends and relatives already settled there – more and more immigrants are following the jobs and moving to the South and West where the central cities are less dense.

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80% of foreign-born Americans speak a language other than English. Voiance Language Services provides multilingual support in over 200 languages to business and government. Our employee interpreters receive 120 hours of training, including language testing and instruction in listening and recall. Organizations use Voiance’s telephone interpretation to facilitate communication with customers. Voiance is a subsidiary of CyraCom International, Inc., the largest provider of Phone Interpretation that operates solely in the United States.

More Immigrants = Better Economy

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Increased immigration indicates a positive economic trend. But Why?

Demographer William Frey from the Brookings Institution, who studies the trends in the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, has some good news about the American economy. According to the trends of immigration, the economy is improving.

Frey says that immigration inflows and outflows reflect the state of the economy. He says that “last year we’d had the lowest level of immigration in quite a while… So the fact that immigration dropped off was an indicator of a really weak job market in the United States.”

The nearly half a million net increase in immigrants this year indicates that the labor market might be improving once again.

The Immigration Policy Center and American Immigration Council additionally concludes that immigrant inflows not only reflect the state of the economy, but they greatly contribute to it. Economist Giovanni Peri of the University of California, Davis, has stated that “immigrants expand the US economy’s productive capacity, stimulate investment, and promote specialization that in the long run boosts productivity.”

The type of immigrant coming to the United States has also changed this year.

2013 was marked by many Asians “com[ing] here for graduate school, for college. Many of them come here to take jobs that are high skilled jobs and of course bring their relatives with them.” As a result, there have been more Asian immigrants than any other group.

With immigrants taking higher paying, skilled jobs, we would expect to see a stronger economy than one which depends on unskilled, low-paying jobs.

In fact, according to a 2012 report from the Information Technology Industry Council, the Partnership for a New American Economy, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, foreign-born graduates staying to work in high-skilled occupations create on average 2.62 jobs for American workers. The same report speculated the job creation derives from the innovation, research, and development that high-skill immigrants bring to their employers.

With this new shift in immigration, there is hope for the economy in the near future. Frey believes that “we have either bottomed out or are close to bottoming out of the kind of bad news story that we’ve been hit with over the last several years.”

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80% of foreign-born Americans speak a language other than English. Voiance Language Services provides multilingual support in over 200 languages to business and government. Our employee interpreters receive 120 hours of training, including language testing and instruction in listening and recall. Organizations use Voiance’s telephone interpretation to facilitate communication with customers. Voiance is a subsidiary of CyraCom International, Inc., the largest provider of Phone Interpretation that operates solely in the United States.

Driving Employee Engagement: Webinar with Stan Phelps

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Voiance recently sponsored a webinar with the author of What’s your Green Goldfish?, Stan Phelps. Stan gave several examples of “little extras” that employers can do to engage employees. goldfishRule

The problem that he addresses is that currently, 69% of US employees are either “not engaged” or are “actively disengaged”. As a result, finding ways to motivate and engage employees should be a concern for all employers and supervisors across all industries.

Providing “little extras” to engage employees can be simple, you just need to follow Stan’s “R.U.L.E.S”:

Relevant: make sure that the item or service is a true benefit to the recipient.
Unexpected: the extra benefit or gift should be a surprise.
Limited: something that is rare or unique to your business.
Expression: think about “how” it is given, as opposed to “what” is given.
Sticky: Is the little something extra memorable enough to tell a friend or three thousand?

Stan provided examples from companies all over the world that do “little extras” that help motivate their employees. Here are 15 ways you can engage your employees and maintain a high level of engagement.

  1. Recruiting/Onboarding- Create a sense of inclusion right away.
  2. Food and Beverage- Free food or potluck days to bring people together.
  3. Modern Family- creating benefits that extend to all family members of the employee.
  4. Shelter- create a work space or break space that allows bonding and creative thinking.
  5. Wellness- have work out programs or incentives for employees to stay fit.
  6. Time Away- encourage employees to enjoy their time off and take vacations.
  7. Flexibility- create flexibility in the times and hours that employees are required to work.
  8. Team Building- have company events to bring the team together.
  9. Transparency- allow employees to know all the ins and outs of your company.
  10. “Attaboys” and “Attagirls”- give small gift or awards for good behavior or work.
  11. Retirement- have retirement plans set up for employees to allow them.
  12. Take Note: Best Things in Life are Free- simple notes and a “thank you” go a long way.
  13. Training and development- create opportunities for employees to learn skills outside their job description.
  14. Paying it Forward- allow employees to participate in community service events.
  15. Empowerment- foster an environment where people feel comfortable stepping out of the box. 

The whole idea behind the Green Goldfish is to implement small changes that can make a big impact for your employees. Stan said it best when he said “Love your customers and employees as yourself. Give more than expected. Be remark-able.”

-Sarah

Voiance Language Services provides multilingual support in over 200 languages to business and government. Our employee interpreters receive 120 hours of training, including language testing and instruction in listening and recall. Organizations use Voiance’s telephone interpretation to facilitate communication with customers. Voiance is a subsidiary of CyraCom International, Inc., the largest provider of Phone Interpretation that operates solely in the United States.

Voiance’s Parent Company CyraCom Recognized as a Top 50 Privately Held Company in Arizona

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CyraCom was recognized as one of the top 50 privately held companies in Arizona by the Phoenix Business Journal as part of the Arizona Corporate Excellence (ACE) Awards.
The ACE Awards were created to recognize the largest private companies in Arizona for their investment in the state. These companies are very important to the economy of Arizona and to the families of their employees; they generate revenues of over $15 billion per year and employ over 40,000 employees in the State of Arizona and over 56,000 worldwide.

CyraCom employs nearly 1,000 people in Arizona, with most of these jobs having been created in the last three years and the company was recognized as the second fastest private job creator in Arizona in 2012, by Inc. magazine’s Hire Power rankings. CyraCom is one of the largest language service providers in North America and has been able to develop this important sector of the economy by drawing from Arizona’s linguistic diversity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has indicated that language services, particularly interpretation, are growth areas for careers and business for the next ten years.

About CyraCom International, Inc.
CyraCom is the largest provider of Over-the-Phone Interpretation (OPI) operating solely in the US. OPI is a three-way call between an interpreter, an English-speaking representative, and a non-English speaking customer. In addition to OPI, CyraCom offers Document Translation, Video Remote Interpretation, On-Site Interpretation, and Interpreter Assessment and Training services. CyraCom has four locations in Arizona and is headquartered and founded in Tucson. In 2013, CyraCom received a Stevie Award (American Business Award) for Company of the Year in Business Services. CyraCom provides over 200 languages and has more than 3,000 clients, including some of the largest healthcare, insurance, and financial services companies in the US.

Languages and the Need for Speed

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Sometimes when using an interpreter, the speed and length of the interpretation may seem to vary wildly from what you said or heard.

For example, you say a sentence consisting of twenty syllables and your Vietnamese interpreter only uses a handful of syllables to respond: did the interpreter even say the same sentence? In another instance, your client seemed to jump from one word to the next very quickly, but when the interpreter provided the English version, the words were slow and simple.

Some languages seem so fast compared to English. Is there a difference between the speed of languages? Is your interpreter really acting professionally?

The answer is a resounding “yes!” to both questions. Some languages are spoken faster than others, say researchers from the Université de Lyon in France who published their study findings in the journal Language last year. The researchers recruited 59 volunteers who were native speakers of seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish and Vietnamese. Each participant read 20 different texts in their native languages into a recorder.

According to the Time Magazine article, the researchers found that some languages are spoken faster than others. They found Spanish and Japanese, often described as “fast languages,” clocked the greatest number of syllables per second. Spanish possessed a low-density syllable rate of .63, but sped along with a syllable-per-second velocity of 7.82. Japanese, which surpassed Spanish with its 7.84 velocity, had a minimal density of .49.

The “slowest” language in the set was Mandarin, followed closely by German. Mandarin, which topped the density list at .94, only had a velocity of 5.18 syllables per second. English was also on the lower end of the spectrum, with a high information density of .91 and an average rate of 6.19 syllables per second. Results showed that each text, no matter what language used, was told in relatively the same span of time despite sounding slower or faster.

So while you might believe you hear a discrepancy from an interpreter, your keen ears may simply notice the speed and density differences of the languages spoken.
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Voiance’s employee interpreters complete a 120-hour, in-class interpretation course – 80 hours longer than other interpretation companies – helping to ensure consistent quality and accuracy of interpretation amongst hundreds of interpreters.

Tips for Interacting with Non-English Speakers

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Currently, one out of every eight Americans is foreign-born and 9% of the population is Limited English Proficient (LEP). Inevitably, you and your staff members will interact with Limited English speakers.

What kind of LEP training should your staff receive? The Diversity Council suggests the following for communicating effectively with LEP individuals, with or without a Phone Interpreter:

When speaking to an LEP person:

  • Slow down a little, but not too much. Your natural inflection and intonation helps the listener understand your meaning.
  • Do not raise your voice.
  • Enunciate.

Chose your words carefully with LEP individuals:

  • Use small, ordinary words. Avoid business jargon, cultural references (I need your John Hancock), slang, and idioms (We need to wrap this up).
  • Omit extra words (Why don’t you try putting this there? Vs. Put this there.)
  • Repeat what you are trying to say in different words.
  • Avoid sarcasm or irony.

Avoid negative questions:

When you ask someone, “You don’t mind if I sit here, do you?” you expect the answer to be “No.” However, an LEP person will frequently answer “Yes,” meaning, “I agree with you; I don’t mind if you sit here.

When LEP people respond:

  • Wait for an answer when you ask a question. It may take some time for an LEP individual to mentally compose a response.
  • To check comprehension, ask the LEP person to repeat back to you or demonstrate what you have explained.

Act sensitively and respectfully to LEP individuals. The Golden Rule – treat others as you would like to be treated – remains the best tip for human interaction, regardless of native language or culture.

-Sarah

  

Voiance Language Services provides multilingual support in over 200 languages to business and government. Our employee interpreters receive 120 hours of training, including language testing and instruction in listening and recall. Organizations use Voiance’s telephone interpretation to facilitate communication with customers. Voiance is a subsidiary of CyraCom International, Inc., the largest provider of Phone Interpretation that operates solely in the United States.

Voiance Exhibits at APCO 2013

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Voiance, a leading provider of 911 language interpretation services, recently showed support for the public safety industry by exhibiting at the Association of Public Safety Officials (APCO) national show in Anaheim, CA. More and more clients in 911 have been switching to Voiance because of the Arizona company’s high quality and service levels.

At the conference, Voiance educated public safety officials on the use of language services in emergencies, discussing new technologies and trends available to in the Phone Interpretation industry.

APCO is an international leader committed to providing complete public safety communications expertise, professional development, technical assistance, advocacy, and outreach to benefit its members and the public. APCO International celebrated its 79th Annual Conference & Expo for Emergency Response services and professionals.

About Voiance

Voiance Language Services is the new leader in language interpreter services in 911, Voiance supporting over 200 languages and operating 24/7/365.Voiance provides the shortest advertised connection times to interpreters. Unlike other providers that operate predominately from personal residences or overseas, Voiance’s dedicated 911 interpreters work in secure facilities exclusively in the US. Voiance is a subsidiary of CyraCom International. Visit www.voiance.com for more.

About APCO International

APCO International is the world’s largest organization of public safety communications professionals. It serves the needs of public safety communications practitioners worldwide – and the welfare of the general public as a whole – by providing complete expertise, professional development, technical assistance, advocacy and outreach.

Webinar with Steve Curtin: Delight Your Customers

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In July, we sponsored the webinar, “Delight your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary,” with author and consultant, Steve Curtin, based on his book of the same title. Here are a few of our takeaways from the webinar:

7 Simple Ways to Create Extraordinary Customer Service:

Steve’s book outlines seven ways to create extraordinary customer service:

  1. Express genuine interest
  2. Offer sincere and specific compliments
  3. Share unique knowledge
  4. Convey authentic enthusiasm
  5. Use appropriate humor
  6. Provide pleasant surprises
  7. Deliver service heroics 

These are all voluntary actions that an employee can choose to do which are all reflected in what Steve describes as Job Essence.

Job Function vs. Job Essence

Job Function and Job Essence comprise two halves of every employee’s job role.

Job Function describes the duties or tasks associated with a job. These are mandatory, process-focused tasksjobBalance

Conversely, an employee’s highest priorities at work illustrate Job Essence. Job Essence responsibilities are relational and customer focused and not expected. Job Essence reflects an employees’ personality, uniqueness, and enthusiasm – coming at no additional cost to an employer. 

Encouraging a balance of both Job Function and Job Essence will lead to better employee performance.

Steve left us with a final quote to sum up customer service experiences:
“We do not remember days; we remember moments” - Cesare Pavese, Italian Poet.

-Sarah

Voiance Language Services provides multilingual support in over 200 languages to business and government. Our employee interpreters receive 120 hours of training, including language testing and instruction in listening and recall. Organizations use Voiance’s telephone interpretation to facilitate communication with customers. Voiance is a subsidiary of CyraCom International, Inc., the largest provider of Phone Interpretation that operates solely in the United States.

What Makes a Great Interpreter Part 2

In my last entry, we discussed how becoming an interpreter requires much more than simply fluency in a second language: as a highly specialized profession, it requires training and practice. We covered two skills that are requisite for a person to become a professional-level interpreter – language skills and listening and recall.

In this second part, we will cover three more skills that needed to be developed in order for someone to become professional interpreter that you can trust: Ethical behavior, cultural knowledge, and subject knowledge.

1. Ethical behavior: Regardless of their field of work, interpreters may encounter confidential or sensitive information. Interpreters working in medical and financial services must be particularly attuned to the strong regulatory environment surrounding patient and consumer privacy.

Ethical behavior extends beyond just keeping what you’ve heard to yourself. On the US Courts website, they list that an interpreter must be both impartial andAble to accurately and idiomatically turn the message from the source language into the receptor language without any additions, omissions or other misleading factors that alter the intended meaning of the message from the speaker.”

2.  Cultural knowledge: It’s not enough for someone to be bilingual, it’s just as important to be bicultural. If a person is bicultural, they have naturally absorbed the sensibilities and nuances of two cultures and have inherent abilities to mediate between the two cultures that they belong to.

Dr. Holly Mikkelson from the Monterey Institute of International Studies states, “in all of their work, interpreters must bridge the cultural and conceptual gaps separating the participants in a meeting.”

3.  Subject knowledge: Imagine if you are tasked to listen to an academic lecture about aerospace engineering and then repeat what you had learned. Unless you are deeply familiar with how aerodynamics work, you might be hard-pressed to make any sense of the lecture, much less repeat it back in a way that is understandable to anyone else.

It is so critical that an interpreter understands the subject material of a conversation they need to interpret. If it is confusing to an interpreter due to lack of knowledge or she doesn’t understand the vocabulary, there is no way the audience of the interpreter will fare any better in understanding what is being said.

Voiance Language Services provides multilingual support in over 200 languages to business and government. Our employee interpreters receive 120 hours of training, including instruction in ethics and specific subjects in interpreting, including healthcare, insurance, and finance. Organizations use Voiance’s telephone interpretation to facilitate communication with customers. Voiance is a subsidiary of CyraCom International, Inc., the 2nd largest provider of Over-the-Phone Interpretation in the United States.

What Makes a Great Interpreter Part 1

As a nation proudly made up of immigrants, the United States has numerous bilingual people. According to the US Census Bureau, there are nearly 31 million people in the United States who speak another language than English at home and also speak English very well – roughly 10% of the population.

Being bilingual is often seen as only the starting point for the training needed to become an interpreter. Interpreting is a highly specialized profession that requires training and practice. Professional-level interpreters acquire many skills that the average bilingual person does not possess or have not sufficiently honed.

In the article, “Interpreting is Interpreting – or is it?” by Associate Professor of Translation and Interpretation at the Monterey Institute of International Studies Dr. Holly Mikkelson states that “The fact that many individuals who are called upon to interpret in certain settings lack these [professional interpreter] qualities does not mean they are not needed; it simply means that the client requesting interpreting services does not appreciate their importance.”

So what skills are necessary for someone to be considered a quality interpreter? In order to give this topic sufficient coverage, we will break it into two separate blog posts. The first part will cover language skills and listening and recall:

1.     Language skills: This one may seem like a given, but what most people don’t realize is the extent of knowledge and vocabulary needed just for his or her native language. Michelle Hof, a professional conference interpreter and trainer who runs a blog called The Interpreter Diaries, writes, “As an interpreter, you need to be able to express yourself well in many different registers and have access to a broad active vocabulary covering different fields. Just growing up speaking a language does not automatically mean you will have these skills. I see it all the time in the early days of a course, when students can’t seem to stop themselves from talking like they do to their friends in the bar and start sounding like interpreters.”

And that’s just for the interpreter’s native language. On the International Association of Conference Interpreters’ website (AIIC), it says that in order to be an interpreter, his or her “understanding of the language should be comparable to that of an educated native speaker of the same language.”  

2.     Listening and recall: In the field of interpreting, there are two major interpreting methods: consecutive interpreting and simultaneous interpreting. Consecutive interpreting is the modality performed by Voiance’s interpreters, and it requires waiting until a speaker pauses before interpreting. In order to produce an accurate interpretation, this requires intense active listening, memory recall, and note-taking, since the speaker could talk for a few seconds to several minutes.

Interpreting requires more brain power than usual. Scientists have conducted experiments on bilingual subjects and found when a person transitions between two languages, the brain uses regions not traditionally used in normal language use. The use of those regions suggest that there is a need for greater coordination of mental operations and that phonological processing is more difficult when having to switch languages.

Voiance Language Services provides multilingual support in over 200 languages to business and government. Our employee interpreters receive 120 hours of training, including language testing and instruction in listening and recall. Organizations use Voiance’s telephone interpretation to facilitate communication with customers. Voiance is a subsidiary of CyraCom International, Inc., the 2nd largest provider of Phone Interpretation in the United States.