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If you are 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 and their experiences, values and beliefs may differ significantly.

 

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

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) provides the TIS National interpreting service. TIS National is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any person or organisation in Australia requiring interpreting services. To use an interpreter over the telephone, phone 131 450.

Tips for working with an interpreter

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, and explain how the discussion will work with the interpreter present.

You might want to tell the 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
  • that you are bound by confidentiality rules, and so is the interpreter: what you discuss will remain private and confidential.

You might want to ask:

  • 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 the parent. Maintain eye contact with the parent, 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 the parent, not the interpreter.
  • Check 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, clarify, respond to the questions.
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  • Last Reviewed 16-05-2006
  • Positive Parenting Program (PPP), Victorian Government Department of Human Services, Published by The Victorian Parenting Centre