Helping Agents Use Phone Interpretation Effectively (Part 2)

Apr 23, 2019

Tips for working with phone interpreters

Are your agents using multilingual support, including phone interpretation, in the most effective way possible?

In Part One of this series, we shared four tips from Voiance designed to help your agents get the greatest possible benefit from their use of phone interpreters. But don't stop there. Take a look at the four more best practices we're sharing today, then (if you haven't already) click below to check out our RFP guide for more insights into choosing a language services provider.

5. Speak to Your Customer Directly and In the First/Second Person

Those unfamiliar with the use of professional interpreters to communicate with non-English speaking callers will often instinctively converse with the interpreter, asking the interpreter to relay their message: "Interpreter, please tell Mrs. Tran that her credit card isn't working because it has expired."

While this is natural, it cuts the customer out of the conversation and may make them feel talked-about, rather than listened to. Instead, the proper protocol is to speak directly to the customer just as you would if conversing in English - "Mrs. Tran, the credit card has expired" - then pause to allow the interpreter to repeat your message in the target language.

6. Use Short Phrases and Sentences

We've all played a game of "telephone" - attempting to retain and relay someone else's words accurately. That's a daily reality for professional interpreters, and while they receive training to do it well and can take notes to aid memory, the conversation will flow more smoothly if your agents keep their sentences short and pause periodically. This allows the interpreter to pass the message along in-language while it's fresh. It may also encourage your staff to communicate only essential information, shortening the overall call time.

7. Avoid Idioms, Metaphors, and Slang

Straightforward facts and phrases translate well from language to language. Idioms and expressions, however, tend to vary significantly between culture. Phrases like "raining cats and dogs" or "up a creek without a paddle" aren't common across all languages, so using them in a multilingual conversation adds to the interpreter's work. He/she must now interpret twice: once to extract the literal meaning from the idiom, then again to switch that meaning into the target language. Alternately, an inexperienced or amateur interpreter may even convey the idiom word-for-word, resulting in confusion about whether, in fact, household pets are falling from the clouds.

8. Allow the Interpreter to Clarify Issues

If a customer doesn’t seem to understand the message, the interpreter will let your agent know and try to clarify with the caller in-language. Don’t worry if this happens – it benefits all parties involved.

Customers sometimes misunderstand your message due to regional and cultural differences. For example, the Spanish language word for “bus” is “autobús” in most Spanish dialects. But in Caribbean Spanish, “bus” translates to “guagua.”

If you missed Part One, check back with the Voiance blog to read our first four tips. Then take a look at our RFP Guide:

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Topics: Best Practices, Advice and Improvement, Over-the-Phone Interpretation, phone interpretation

Written by Graham Newnum

Digital Marketing Specialist experienced in researching and writing about language access-related topics for healthcare, business, and government.
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