Bad interpretation

It is not good interpretation but bad interpretation that gets noticed by meeting delegates. They notice very long pauses, blatant contradictions between one sentence and the next (since normally speakers do not contradict themselves that quickly), a strong foreign accent, poor grammar or intonation, and inappropriate use of terminology. They can soon tell whether an interpreter is at ease and whether he or she is easy to listen to. They will also notice unprofessional behaviour and even inappropriate dress code.

Although delegates cannot normally compare the original with the interpretation, it usually does not take that long for them to realise that they are not getting the right message either because of incongruities in the interpretation or because participants always seem to be at cross purposes with one another and do not seem to understand each other’s questions or answers.

In short, even the most beautifully-packaged and confident-sounding interpretation will be unmasked as a fake long before the end of the meeting if the delegates are not able to get their points across and understand one another. Furthermore, they will be extremely annoyed since they have no choice but to trust the interpretation, a service they rely on to follow the meeting . And they will feel let down, they will start to get grumpy, they will complain about the interpretation and they may even take off their headphones.

Bad interpretation is of no use to anyone and it is worse than no interpretation at all, and certainly a lot more expensive, hence the need to ensure that interpreters are capable of providing quality interpretation.

Quality interpretation

Quality interpretation allows meeting participants to easily follow what everyone is saying irrespective of the language they are speaking. When interpreters are good, participants even forget that they are listening to interpretation.

Meeting participants know they are receiving quality interpretation when what the interpreters are saying makes sense and is clear and understandable. They are not put off or distracted by poor or strange use of language because the interpreter is using acceptable and natural language, so the listener can concentrate on the message. If the voice is pleasant and the delivery is relaxed and confident, that makes it even easier for delegates to listen. Furthermore, good interpreters always behave in a professional way (they are polite, they never make rude comments through their microphones, they dress appropriately, etc.)

If all of these characteristics are there, meeting participants will have quality interpretation, which is the only type of interpretation worth having.


“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” Red Adair