All my speakers and most of my audience speak good English – so why would I need a conference interpreter?
Many British conference organisers have come across an event at some point in their career, where some of the speakers and audience speak English, but not as their first language. What should you do in this situation? What problems could be caused?
There is never a hard and fast rule, but it’s worth taking a quick look at some of the issues in more detail to get a feel for where problems may arise:
Speakers don’t speak good English
- Their presentation may be in good English if they have had plenty of time to prepare or had it professionally translated, but what happens when the floor is opened to questions? Will they understand the questions and be able to give clear answers?
- If the speaker has prepared the presentation themselves, it may not be clear to understand and it may have incorrect terminology.
- A speaker’s English may be badly phrased or heavily accented, causing more comprehension issues.
Delegates don’t speak good English
- Important information in the presentations may not be clear and they may not be able to ask the questions to which they need answers.
- They may struggle to follow a presentation given quickly and will probably miss any humour or colloquial language.
- Listening in a foreign language is tiring and mistakes may start to creep in towards the end of the day.
Conference interpreters work in soundproof booths, in pairs, swapping over every 20 – 30 minutes as their work is so demanding. They ensure a real-time spoken translation is provided to everyone through headsets in their mother tongue. Here’s a great short video on how they work.
So, how important is your message and what could you do to help everyone understand?
The success of your conference and the public image of your organisation depend on clear communication and the professional transfer of ideas. Taking the chance that people will be able to understand complex subjects discussed in detail in a language which is not their mother tongue could put the success of the event at risk.
It’s not easy to keep to a strict budget, but when communication is the purpose of the event, investing in professional interpreters may well be worth it. You’ll need to take a close look at the capabilities of your audience and your presenters and see how both could be helped to get the best from your event.
If you feel that your upcoming event may have a language issue, talk to us now about the professional translation of presentations and conference materials, and whether interpreters would be a possible way to ease communication on the day. Call 0844 856 1086 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.