Value of Interpreters from a Business Perspective

With the Easter Holiday and Royal Wedding coming up so close to one another, it’s been relatively quiet on the work front. Therefore I am trying to make the best use of this quiet period by reading all day in Durham University Library.

I am currently on the ITI (Institute of Translation and Interpreting) 1988 annual conference report. Freelance interpreter Valerie Landon, in her speech ‘Interpreting and the International Outlook’, analysed some of the reasons why companies may choose not to use interpreters and what changes should really be made in order for the European Common Market to really gain its strength from a speedy, accurate and smooth communication. Although the conference was held some 20 years ago, it is sadly fascinating to see the reasons professional interpreters weren’t used that–she pointed out, still remain today. Or rather, the excuses for not using interpreters.

The first one is cost. Valerie rightly pointed out that it can be fairly costly using an interpreter and that there is no apparent direct return, however, companies should think of interpreters as professionals like accountants, solicitors and stockbrokers. Indeed few accountants charge less than £35/hour. Just as an accountant saves a business money, we interpreters do so if mistunderstanding are avoided and time saved, and we even make money if orders are generated with our help.

This was particularly true in the recent job I did in a glass factory. Due to inefficient communication with the help of a non-professionals before me, the process of the project was delayed from 1 month to 2, and the cost doubled, and even tripled considering the loss of not being able to produce on schedule for their buyers. Finally the company decided to look for a professional interpreter and found me. Work is back on schedule, everyone is happy. A total win-win situation.

The second problem is finding interpreters. I can imagine 20 years ago, when the internet was not as convenient, businesses probably had to rely on the Yellow Pages and personal networks to see if they knew any linguists with the language combination they needed. Today, search engines do the job, thousands of translation agencies exist, and the excuse saying ‘I don’t use an interpreter because I don’t know where to find one’ should no longer exist.

Unlike some people predicted that gradually there would emerge a universal language in the EU, 20 years have passed and we still see the need for interpreters with different language combinations at both the EU as well as the world level. So no more excuses for not using an interpreter, we are here to help business by understanding not just the language, but the culture, the market and also the business customs involved. See us as a business partner, rather than just a linguist who puts one language into another.

Ref: Valerie Landon, ‘Interpreting and the International Outlook’. Translators and Interpreters Mean Business, Institute of Translation and Interpreting. (London:Aslib). pp16-22.

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified)


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    Unreal to think about how much the internet has changed the way we do business and run things.

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