Making Your Message Multicultural: Notes on Working With Translators & Interpreters

Suzanne Deliscar is a Canadian lawyer-linguist who translates in the French-English and Spanish-English language pairs. She focuses on legal and official document translation. Ms. Deliscar was called to the Bar of the Province of Ontario in 2004. She can be reached via her website at 

There are few efforts more conducive to humility than that of the translator trying to communicate an incommunicable beauty. Yet, unless we do try, something unique and never surpassed will cease to exist except in the libraries of a few inquisitive book lovers.
Edith Hamilton (American Educator and Author. Known for popularizing classical Greek and Roman literature. 1867-1963)

At some point or another, organizations, businesses and individuals may find it necessary to have documents translated from a foreign language into English, or vice versa, whether it is for an international business transaction, publication of a book in another country, or providing marketing materials to prospective clients from a foreign language group. Clients or colleagues who do not speak English well, or at all, may also require the services of an interpreter in order to effectively communicate with others. In order to make the translation/interpretation process a pleasant and beneficial process to all involved, the following advice should be followed when working with a language professional:

When Working with Translators

  • It is essential that exact documents/or portions of documents to be translated are communicated to the translator. At times, there may be a significant amount of duplication within documents that do not need to be translated.
  • Ascertain whether the translation requires certification, which is common for translated documents to be used for government (e.g. immigration) or court purposes, and communicate this to the translator.
  • A well-equipped translator will have access to a variety of language tools in order to complete the translation work, as well as a breadth of education. If there are particular glossaries of terms from previous translation projects that should be used for the current translation in question, provide it from the outset to the translator.
  • Agree on a reasonable timeline, keeping in mind that tight deadlines may make it difficult, or impossible to deliver a thorough and accurate translation.
  • Communicate to the translator the purpose of the translation, i.e. who will be reading it, so that the translation can be completed accordingly. As a rule, translations follow the same format as the source document, but for informal internal purposes, for example, the translation buyer may only be concerned with the words, not with the format of the target document.

When Working with Interpreters

  • Speak clearly and slowly. The interpreter needs to be able to understand what you are saying, preferably the first time, in order to accurately communicate the statements to the other party.
  • Be prepared to clarify or restate words if requested. This can only help the interpretation process.
  • When contracting an interpreter, indicate from the outset whether a particular dialect of a language is required. In South America, for example, where Spanish is the predominant language, there are variants between both different countries and within each nation, which could affect the way in which the non-English speaker speaks with the interpreter selected. Furthermore, the Spanish spoken in Latin American is different from Spanish spoken in Spain.

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