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  • Writer's pictureLara Fasoli


Despite what giant tech companies would have you believe, the act of translating requires much more than just a simple two-ways equivalence between words. Automatic translation tools shouldn’t be used to replace the services of professional translators, and various incidents, both sad and hilarious at the same time, have proven time and time again that even advanced technology such as AI is still very far from finding a way to crack the art of translation, let alone that of interpreting.

The pitfalls of these technologies show the difference between machine and human translation: a thinking mind capable of ascertaining context, understanding a brief and tailoring the final result to the client’s needs. That’s precisely what (good) translators and interpreters are trained to do: we’re always “switched on” and we critically engage with the text or speech we’re working on.

Here are some of the more important questions we’ve been taught (or we’ve learnt the hard way) to ask:

  • What is the function of the text/speech? Is the author trying to inform, inspire, persuade, educate or rally their target audience?

  • What is the medium? Is the text a blog post, a short essay or a different type of text? Is it to be published online or on printed paper? Is the speech a keynote? A seminar lesson? A webinar?

  • What’s the target audience? Has the author got in mind a specific persona they’re talking to?

  • Does the author have any specific editorial preference? Or a preferred glossary? Any term or language they want to avoid?

As a rule of thumb, a translator/interpreter who asks questions is usually a good one. This is because they’ve analysed the text or the preparation material received and are looking to clarify doubts to then translate or interpret following the brief they are given.

This is why when I’m contacted by a prospective client asking for my availability, I will always ask the same 5 questions before committing — this is so I can guarantee each interpreting assignment I work on is a success, regardless of whether that is a F2F international conference, a shorter online virtual event on Zoom or a 1-hour B2B call. These are essential for me to prepare an accurate quote, study for the event and deliver the best Italian interpreting service during the event so that everything runs smoothly on the client’s end.

Here are my 5 non-negotiable questions that need answering before I commit to an assignment:

My 5 non-negotiable questions to guarantee a professional interpreting service

1. What is the topic of the event?

I can’t commit to an assignment unless I know its topic: translators and interpreters specialise in different areas, and we may feel more or less comfortable taking on assignments in different subjects. As an example, I’m happy to interpret during a medical examination or a factory inspection, but I’d never set foot in a courtroom to interpret during a trial as I’m not comfortable with legal procedure and the relevant jargon. Don’t despair: if the topic of the event isn’t one of my specialities, I’ll recommend a suitable colleague to ensure you’re getting the best professional interpreter for the job.

2. Where is the event taking place? Is it a virtual event or a F2F one?

Knowing the exact location of the assignment will allow me to determine whether I can take it on for logistical reasons, as well as produce an accurate quote in terms of travel costs.

3. How long is the assignment going to last, and what is the mode of interpreting requested?

Interpreting rates vary based on the duration of the project — I need to know what’s the estimated duration to provide the most accurate quote. As an Italian interpreter, I offer my services in various modes, most commonly consecutive, chuchotage and simultaneous. I will be happy to advise which option will be the most suitable for the assignment depending on different factors, such as the setting and the number of delegates. Different modalities call for different preparation, equipment, and setups!

4. Are the agenda and the relevant documents available?

Interpreters need to prepare glossaries and research the specific topic ahead of the assignment in order to make your event a success.

5. What is the aim of the event?

I will schedule a short briefing session with the client (or their representative) in order to assess their aim for the project: selling a product, closing a contract, present the findings of a new research study — my interpretation will be tailored to assist them in fulfilling it.

Have you already got all the above information ready? Just get in touch then!

For more information on my services and the world of translation and interpreting in general, feel free to browse the other post on my blog.

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