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How to communicate through an interpreter

When people need to communicate, but they don’t have a common language that both parties speak, there is a need for an interpreter.
A translator has a role as an intermediary, which is necessary in order to
both sides could understand each other. Purpose of use
of an interpreter is to make communication as similar as possible to
a normal conversation. Communication through an interpreter requires compliance with
certain rules.
This leaflet briefly explains how Norway has implemented
communication through an interpreter, what is their role in communication and what is it
means to you. Finally, we will point out what you should pay attention to
special attention when communicating with the help of an interpreter.
The law on translation
In Norway, the use of interpreters is regulated by a separate law on

Main provisions of the Law on Translation:

  • All public authorities are obliged to use an interpreter when necessary to ensure the rule of law or to provide appropriate assistance and services
  • When a government agency uses an interpreter, the interpreter must have certain qualifications. A qualified translator is a translator listed in the National Register of Translators.
  • It is prohibited to use children as interpreters
  • The Law on Translation also sets out clear requirements for a translator. For example, complete confidentiality and impartiality.

A translator follows certain rules in his or her work, namely:

  • The translator translates everything that will be said during the conversation, does not skip, change or add anything
  • During the work, the translator is impartial and neutral. This means that the translator’s personal beliefs should not affect the quality and accuracy of the translation
  • The translator is engaged only in translation and does not perform any other tasks
  • The translator maintains complete confidentiality of the translation. This means the following:
    o All information that the translator becomes aware of during the translation is confidential
    o The interpreter’s duty of confidentiality extends to everyone, including superiors, colleagues and family
    o The obligation to maintain confidentiality is lifelong, i.e., it continues even after

If you are communicating through an interpreter, you should consider the following:

  • You are responsible for everything you say during the conversation
  • the interpreter is not responsible for the accuracy or truthfulness of the information that you and your interlocutor provide to each other
  • the interpreter is not able to keep track of what you have said to each other and will not be able to recall what was said before
  • the interpreter is not a representative of any of the interlocutors
  • the interpreter is obliged to report if he/she is biased, i.e. has a family relationship, is married or engaged to one of the parties, is a party to the case or has acted for one of the parties in the case.
  • the interpreter must inform if he/she is unable to perform his/her work properly for any reason

When you are going to speak through an interpreter, it is IMPORTANT to remember

Talk to your interlocutor, not about them

  • address each other directly, not the interpreter. That is, don’t say: “Ask him if he wants to…” but ask him directly: “Do you…?” Then the translator will translate it, and the conversation will be more like a normal one.
  • if something seems unclear to you, or when you are not sure that you have been understood, ask your interlocutor about it, and the interpreter will translate your question

Think about what you will say in advance

  • emphasize the most important points
  • Don’t talk incessantly. Try to pause so that the interpreter can translate. In this case, the translation will be more accurate, and it will be easier for the other person to comment on what you have said or give you an answer, as is usually the case in a normal conversation
  • Speak clearly and understandably. If you use proverbs, for example, you should also explain what they mean.

Also keep in mind that

  • facial expressions and body language that usually complement words in a normal conversation will have less effect in a translated conversation. Therefore, communicating through an interpreter is a bit like talking on the phone, when we also have only words and a voice to convey information.
  • some gestures may have different meanings in different cultures (for example, nodding your head in Norway means “yes”, but in other cultures it may mean “no”). The following features should be considered when communicating through an interpreter
  • Translation is hard work. A translator must focus entirely on translation, so he or she cannot perform any other tasks. The interpreter gets tired faster than the people who are talking, and therefore the interpreter may need to take breaks from work.

Source: https://www.imdi.no/

Updated on 12.09.2023

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