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How do you know that your interpreter is actually providing a high-quality service? By definition, if you need an interpreter, that means you do not understand one or more languages used in the situation. So how do you know your interpreter is good or not?

asked 19 Jan '12, 18:09

Sirpa's gravatar image


edited 21 Jan '12, 01:42

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About the only thing I would add is that users' perception of quality will often be based not on one interpreter but on the team, and good teamwork should enhance overall quality. The last study cited below also shows that more experienced users may develop slightly different expectations and criteria for judging quality than less-experienced users .

Here are three more articles/studies on the subject:

Thoughts on the Quality of Interpretation by Eduardo Kahane (2000).

Survey on Quality and Role: Conference interpreters' expectations and self-perceptions by Cornelia Zwischenberger and Franz Pochhacker (2010).

Survey on Expectations of Users of Conference Interpretation - a study commissioned by AIIC (1995).

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answered 23 Jan '12, 13:23

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Hi Sirpa,

I agree with Marta. Even if your car runs smoothly, does not guzzle up gas, engine sounds right, etc. that does not mean that it must be alright! It could cause you damage or result in a fire or electric shock a few kilometers ahead.

Interpreting quality is not easy to evaluate and it should always be measured by professionals. Nevertheless, there are some parameters and evaluation criteria to take into account. In Germany, Prof. Dr. Sylvia Kalina (associate member of AIIC) has published some works dedicated to this area, among others:

2001: Quality Requirements in Conference Interpreting. In: Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Translation and Interpretation Studies: Theories of Translation and Interpretation & Problems in Korean Translation and Interpretation, Graduate School of Interpretation and Translation, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, Korea, 19-31.

2002: Quality in interpreting and its prerequisites - A framework for a comprehensive view. In Interpreting in the 21st Century. Proceedings of the 1st Conference on Interpreting Studies, Forlì, University of Bologna (9-11 November 2000), Garzone, G. and M. Viezzi (eds). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins, 121-130.

2005: Quality assurance for interpreting processes. In: Meta 50(2005)2, 769-784. (Special Edition, Hanne Lee-Janke, ed.)

2005: Quality in the Interpreting Process: What Can be Measured and How? In: Godijns, Rita & Hinderdael, Michael (eds.). Directionality in Interpreting. The ‘Retour’ or the Native?. Gent: Communication and Cognition, 27-46.

2006: Zur Dokumentation von Maßnahmen der Qualitätssicherung beim Konferenzdolmetschen. In: Heine, Carmen & Schubert, Klaus & Gerzymisch-Arbogast, Heidrun (Hgg.) (2006). Translation Theory and Methodology. Tübingen: Gunter Narr.

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answered 23 Jan '12, 10:16

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edited 23 Jan '12, 10:25


...likewise, I took the interested party in finding out about the quality of interpreter x at work to be a client. Your sources are excellent but methinks hardly the likely basis for the run-of-the-mill client to determine whether his/her interpreter is any good and therefore worth re-hiring :-). Then again, I very much doubt any of them provides insurance against an excellent interpreter fizzing out a few conferences down the road :-.

(23 Jan '12, 12:29) msr

Exactly, that's why I wrote "interpreting quality is not easy to evaluate and it should always be measured by professionals", "professionals" meaning of course "professional interpreters".

(23 Jan '12, 12:41) Delete ♦ do you know whether your car was properly fixed, not being a mechanic? If it runs smoothly, does not guzzle up gas, engine sounds right, gears don't grate, speed is acceptable, road bumps are adequately shock absorbed, you do not freeze/sweat inside, seat is kind to your nether regions, steering responds to wheel... must be alright! :-)

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answered 20 Jan '12, 16:06

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We inevitably choose our suppliers based on trusted recommendations and where possible, those suppliers being part of recognised organization, trade bodies. Therefore choosing an interpreter who belongs to a recognised organization should already guarantee a certain level of quality.

Unlike mechanics and garages which are almost always subject to national legislation, interpretation and its measurement is far more subjective. Therefore it's always important to speak to your client before, during and after an event to gather their feedback which is one of the easiest ways to evaluate the quality of an interpreter.

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answered 22 Jan '12, 17:07

Marta%20Piera%20Marin's gravatar image

Marta Piera ...

...unless I misread, the question was not about chosing the best interpreter but about how to determine whether the interpreter you have is any good, hence my pedestrian simile...which was indeed all about feedback :-). Legislation and quality, really? :-)

(23 Jan '12, 12:23) msr
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question asked: 19 Jan '12, 18:09

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last updated: 23 Jan '12, 13:23

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