I have mentioned in this and other books a few occasions when it is a good idea to bring your own interpreter along. An independent interpreter can be key to successful communications.
This is especially true if you are trying to solve existing problems or have another reason to talk directly to the factory’s engineers. You may decide to bypass the factory’s English speaking sales manager because he is not be able to translate your requests adequately or may be unwilling to do so in order to protect his own interests.
It will also give your negotiations more weight if you can talk directly to the decision maker who could be the factory owner or one of the shareholders with help from an independent interpreter.
The interpreter should be a neutral person without any direct interest in your business activities. In Chapters 11 and 25, I will provide more information about who will attend the meetings from the factory’s side and what roles they play. You can use this information to decide when hiring interpreters is a good idea.
Tips When Working With a Chinese Interpreter
Here are some helpful tips that you should observe when working with a Chinese interpreter:
- Familiarity with the subject matter is highly important. Try and make sure that your interpreter is familiar and comfortable with the topic or subject being covered. Always ensure that your interpreter has a copy of the any planned speech or talk you will be delivering. Every company and industry has its own specialized language, terms, and even jargon. Interpreters may not necessarily be familiar with this before working with your company. Make sure that interpreters are given a selection of any printed materials in both languages that they can study prior to the event. Technical materials can be especially important. Inform them about any complicated words or terminology and inquire how familiar they are with the meanings. Prepare them to deal with any tricky subjects or issues so that they can deliver with ease.
- Time management is crucial so plan your time carefully. Remember the conversation will be twice as long. A forty minute speaking slot with consecutive interpretation leaves time for a twenty-minute speech. A Twenty minute Q&A with consecutive interpretation is really a ten-minute Q&A. And so on.
- Never do a rush job; always speak slowly and clearly. If you are stressed or rushing it will affect the quality of the translation.
- The interpreter is there to simply translate what is being said and must never attempt to translate emotion. If the speaker is happy or annoyed for example, then this will be apparent through his/her body language and tone of voice.
- An interpreter must never undermine your position by answering questions on your behalf without consulting you. Even if the response is very simple or predictable they must always convey the question to you first.
- Don’t be surprised if the interpretation isn’t totally exact. Interpretation is not an exact science, especially as it is a “live” process. An interpreter at an event, who can see facial expressions and sense the atmosphere of an event, might translate differently than someone working from a written transcript of an event. Fast speakers may also find that details get filtered out in favor of a few key points. Although interpretation is inexact, you do have the right to demand accuracy. Don’t work with an interpreter who is error prone or introduces their own bias or ideas into the interpretation. Also, pay close attention to see what you can do to make the interpretation work successful. If the interpreter seems stuck on a particular point, ask for clarification and try restating the information in a different way. Often an example can help clarify a point.
- Never assume the audience doesn’t speak your language. Just because you are working with an interpreter don’t assume no one in the audience speaks English, Spanish, Japanese, and German etc. Many Chinese people, especially in professional circles, understand English or one of the other major languages. They may understand it much better than they can speak it. Even when working with an interpreter, assume that the audience understands you.
Here are some links to Chinese interpreter services. You have to contact them and find out which of them is most suitable for your specific requirements.