Working with interpreters
If you work with parents who speak a first language other than English, sooner or later you’ll probably need to use an interpreter.
Interpreters can help you communicate effectively with parents. When you communicate effectively, you’re well placed to help parents develops skills and strategies for supporting their children’s behaviour, wellbeing and development.
Choosing and briefing interpreters to work with parents
The right interpreter can help you establish trust and respect with parents. Some parents might bring a family member who can help interpret. At all other times, it’s best to use a fully trained and appropriately qualified interpreter.
If you need to find an interpreter for parents, it’s best to find out whether parents have any preferences. For example, would parents prefer an interpreter of a certain gender or culture? Would they prefer an interpreter from their own community?
When you find an interpreter who meets parents’ needs, it’s a good idea to check that the interpreter is acceptable to them.
Once you’ve found an acceptable interpreter, you need to brief the interpreter before you meet with parents. For example:
- Give the interpreter any information they need to understand and respect the family’s circumstances.
- Let the interpreter know how you plan to run the meeting.
- Clarify technical or complex terms.
- Let the interpreter know if you think the meeting might be emotional or intense.
Meeting with interpreters and parents: getting started
It’s best to start the meeting with introductions and then let parents know how the discussion will work with the interpreter present.
For example, you might want to tell parents that:
- they can talk to you, rather than the interpreter
- the interpreter will translate everything that’s said
- if they have any questions, don’t understand something, or want something repeated, just say so and the interpreter will tell you
- you’re bound by confidentiality rules, and so is the interpreter – what you discuss will remain private and confidential.
You could ask parents the following questions:
- Have you worked with an interpreter before?
- Do you have any questions before we start?
- Do you understand?
Managing a meeting with interpreters and parents
Once your meeting starts, these tips can help things go well:
- 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’s your job – not the interpreter’s – to control the interview, clarify issues and respond to questions.
The Department of Home Affairs offers a Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS). This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for any person or organisation in Australia requiring interpreting services. Phone 131 450.