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March 26, 2019By legaltranslationsblog

Working with Face to Face Interpreters or Telephone Interpreters: Which is Best?

When it comes to choosing between a telephone interpreter or a face to face interpreter the choice really depends on the setting and the language. Take for example a healthcare setting. It’s crucial in order to deliver the correct healthcare to be able to communicate effectively with the patient. If an accident has taken place and a person who’s injured is sent to the hospital, the first thing that will take place in communication with the healthcare professional and the patient. It may be simply taking down the patient’s details or it may be important to find out more information about the patient, such as allergies to medication.

If the patient doesn’t speak the hospital’s language and there is no face to face interpreter who speaks the patient’s language then the next step is to contact a telephone interpreter. This is one of the main situations where a telephone interpreter is the only option and communication is required urgently.

The Use of a Face to Face Interpreter

The first consideration when choosing an interpreter is whether there is one available in the required language and the second is whether the interpreter can be available at the time and place required. If there is one available the client needs to make a quick decision as to whether the interpreter will meet up to the required language standard. In the healthcare environment there may be no time to wait, so if a face to face interpreter isn’t available immediately the next best option will need to be considered.

There are occasions, especially in healthcare, when the patient may have a relative who can do the job of a face to face interpreter. However, although this may be a cost-effective solution, the hospital will want to be sure that the relative will be able to convey the right message.

When is a Face to Face Interpreter likely to be the most Useful?

There are several situations when a face to face interpreter is preferred to using an over the phone interpreter. One is when the interpretation session is likely to be long, such as when interviewing a witness in a police station and secondly when complicated information needs to be discussed like a medical diagnosis between a healthcare professional and a patient.

Confidentiality is a Concern with a Face to Face Interpreter

On occasions, a face to face interpreter may be required to handle confidential information that in no circumstances should ever be shared. This is a risk-taking situation but if exchanging certain information is vital it may be a risk that needs to be taken.

When to Choose a Telephone Interpreter

Phone interpreters are used in large organisations when there is no face to face interpreter available, or there isn’t a need to employ one as part of an organisation’s workforce. A key example of this is when an offshore client might be visiting the business and doesn’t speak the business’s language. An important client will want to be understood, so arranging a telephone interpreter for the scheduled meeting will benefit all parties. Of course, a face to face interpreter may be a better option, but not cost effective for a short meeting. If a conference is taking place involving speakers of a number of different languages then it may be worthwhile to engage a number of face to face interpreters so that everyone attending understands what’s going on. It would be difficult if not impossible to set up a series of phone interpreters in this sort of situation.

Another good example for choosing a telephone interpreter is when a tourist is out and about in a country where it’s difficult to understand the language and an event arises like a sudden theft and the tourist needs to go to the police station. An easy way to handle poor communication is to call a telephone interpreter to act as an intermediary and convey the information required to set explain the event. It’s still far easier to access a telephone interpreter at short notice than a face to face interpreter.

Conclusion

Overall, with the constant movement of people in and out of countries where they don’t speak the native language, there are options available to bridge the communication gap. Face to face interpreting is always preferred but isn’t always available in the same number of languages as a telephone interpreter.

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