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Four Essential Parts of the Professional Interpreter’s Introduction

The four critical steps to nailing your interpreter introduction every time

This is part two of Catsup Magazine’s language profession introduction series. Read the first article: Interpreting and Translating 101: What’s the difference?

Essential to every interpreting session is the interpreter introduction. During the interpreter introduction, all parties present will be instructed (in their language) of the language exchange’s guidelines.

While each interpreter drafts their own unique intro, all introductions have the following basic but essential rules touched on.

1. Your name

A name is essential to establish yourself amongst the parties using your service (though you’ll refer to yourself as ‘the interpreter’ during the exchange). If you’re working across a large network or in a large metropolitan area, you may not have repeat clientele. However, it is still important to state yourself as the person providing the service if anything to not be rude to the service user/provider.

Service providers or service users may need this information for documentation. This could be for a multitude of reasons including noting compliments or complaints. An interpreter can be subpoenaed after interpreting for someone’s case even if the case did not begin in a legal setting.

2. Confidentiality

Interpreters need to state the interaction’s confidentiality and of course, actually uphold the ethic principle. Like HIPAA protects your information in a medical setting, interpreters will protect everything that is said during an interpreting session and not repeat the information elsewhere.

Just like service providers can be mandated reporters, interpreters are also bound to always advocate for the service user’s best interest in mind. Through mediation and advocacy, interpreters are able to step outside their interpreter role if need be to facilitate a smooth exchange of values and debrief any misunderstanding. Interpreters can be witnesses to a spectrum of racism and xenophobia coming from any direction.

3. Transparency

Be transparent with the service user and provider: everything will be interpreted. Everything. To provide your best work, preempt the language exchange by stating you will need all parties to speak as clearly as they can and take moments of pause. Which leads us to…

4. Pausing the conversation

Be sure to instruct both your parties of how you will signal for a pause. The person actively speaking should allow pauses for you to catch up or repeat their last passage. Stay consistent with your signal during the same session (don’t confuse the room by raising two fingers when you were waving earlier in the conversation).

To be fair to yourself, establish these boundaries early to avoid the need to switch over to simultaneous interpreting. And if the switch is done to simultaneous mode, be sure to bill appropriately.


Take the time to reflect on the type of professionalism you will exude while still being true to your character as an interpreter. Let the interpreter’s Code of Ethics be your guide to avoid losing credibility. Sending good vibes for good sessions.

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