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Language Support 101: Interpreter Quality

If you've researched language support, you've likely heard a lot about interpreter quality. But what exactly does that mean? Keep reading to find out.

Interpreter Quality: The Cornerstone of Language Support

Qualified interpreters bring much more to the table than basic interpretation — they bring a level of professionalism and ethical acuity to every appointment. Interpreter quality is the cornerstone of any language support offering and should be taken into serious consideration when finding the right partner for your business. To know what to look for, it helps to first have a basic understanding of what interpreter quality is and how it can be achieved. 


Interpreter Quality 101

When we think about interpreting, language proficiency is usually top of mind. And there's a good reason for that. Qualified interpreters should be able to easily interpret back and forth between the languages, but they also need to have a keen understanding of tricky pronunciations, idiomatic phrases, industry terminology, and ethical rules. There's much more to it than thumbing through a foreign language dictionary to translate word for word.

To your limited English-speaking clients, the interpreter is also the face or voice of your organization. In addition to their interpreting abilities, they need to have polished communication skills, a professional demeanor, and a sense of warmth that conveys to your clients that they are compassionate and trustworthy. 

But even that just scratches the surface of what quality interpreting can mean for your business. Your language support partner should be exactly that — a partner. A quality provider prioritizes retaining and growing their interpreter talent as part of their dedication to helping grow your business by continually improving how you connect with your clients. Only by working with your company can the language partner be an accurate voice/reflection of your team.


Determining Interpreter Quality

You can learn a lot about whether a language support provider takes interpreter quality seriously by asking specific questions about their quality standards and interpreter development strategies. Questions such as these are a good place to start:

  • What quality standards do you have in place for hiring and training new interpreters? 
  • How do you measure interpreter quality in terms of both metrics and soft skills?
  • Do you have a plan in place for ongoing assessments and training?
  • What continuing education opportunities do you provide?
  • Do you integrate feedback from your clients into your interpreter training?
  • What role do your interpreters play in suggesting and implementing new ideas?
  • How do you support interpreters as people and team members?

These questions are meant as conversation starters. Ideally, you're looking for a language support provider who gets excited about having these conversations because they understand their interpreter quality is at the very heart of their offering. 


Quality Assurance & Interpreting

One of the questions we're often asked is how quality assurance works into services like telephone and video remote interpreting. While every provider has their own processes, there are several key factors that should be considered when evaluating a language support provider's quality assurance program. 

  • How are calls monitored?
  • How is interpreter performance scored/measured?
  • How often are interpreters evaluated and provided feedback? 
  • How is feedback provided (i.e. not only in what format, but what methodology is used to ensure that interpreters can learn and improve from the feedback)?
  • What is done to proactively improve quality?

Reviewing a language support provider's quality assurance process and program can tell you a lot about their investment in providing quality services and their dedication to customer experience.


Happy Interpreters, Better Quality

Interpreter satisfaction almost always translates to better customer service. That's because interpreters who feel valued and supported stay in their roles longer, which means lower turnover, so organizations can focus on growing their interpreters' skills rather than freshly training new hires. Plus, studies show that people who enjoy what they do perform better on a daily basis. And if interpreters truly believe in the value of the work they're doing, they'll take personal pride in continuing to grow their skill sets, especially if opportunities to do so are made readily available.

Don't hesitate to ask questions about company culture, interpreter satisfaction, growth and development opportunities made available to interpreters, how long interpreters generally stay with the organization, and other key indicators of satisfaction. 


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