By Raising Children Network
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If you’re trying to understand contextual or cultural information, it’s best to ask the family rather than the interpreter. Interpreters are not authorities on the cultural values of your client. Your clients’ experiences, values and beliefs might differ significantly from the itnerpreter’s.


If you have clients whose main language is not English, sooner or later you’ll probably need to work with an interpreter. Some parents might bring in a family member who can help interpret. At all other times, it’s best to use a fully trained and appropriately qualified interpreter.

Tips for working with interpreters

Before the discussion
Brief the interpreter beforehand. Clarify technical or complex terms with the interpreter before the interview or during the interview if needed.

Before you start, introduce yourself and the interpreter to parents. Explain how the discussion will work with the interpreter present.

You might want to tell parents that:

  • they can talk to you, rather than the interpreter
  • the interpreter will translate everything that is said 
  • if they have any questions, don’t understand something, or want something repeated, just say so and the interpreter will repeat it
  • you are bound by confidentiality rules, and so is the interpreter – what you discuss will remain private and confidential.

You might want to ask parents the following questions:

  • Have you worked with an interpreter before?
  • Do you have any questions before we start?
  • Do you understand?

During the discussion

  • Sit somewhere you have eye contact with parents. Maintain eye contact with parents, not the interpreter. 
  • Speak directly to the parent (don’t say, ‘Ask him/her…’) 
  • Speak in short segments to allow the interpreter to translate. 
  • Clarify issues with parents, not the interpreter.
  • Check the accuracy of the interpretation by asking the interpreter to back translate from time to time.
  • You are the interviewer. It is your job – not the interpreter’s – to control the interview, to clarify issues and to respond to questions.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection offers a Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS). The Service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any person or organisation in Australia requiring interpreting services. Phone 131 450.
  • Last updated or reviewed 23-05-2014