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The manager of a respected company wouldn’t hire their friend who is good at maths but has no professional qualifications to manage their financial accounts, so why should this be any different for translation and interpreting?

Unfortunately, many people think that being fluent in another language is synonymous with being able to translate or interpret professionally. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Translation and interpreting are skills that require training, experience and knowledge.

Manatee County officials in Florida recently received criticism when they hired an unqualified sign language interpreter for a news conference, which had been called to give residents information about the emergency procedures to follow as Hurricane Irma was approaching.

The list of criticisms aimed at the interpreter included: frequent pauses, his hesitation and clear lack of professional interpreting experience, wearing a bright yellow shirt when sign language interpreters are generally expected to wear darker clothes so as not to draw attention away from their signing, and his production of incoherent and irrelevant words and phrases such as “need evacuate”, “pray wait water”, “pizza” and “bear monster”…

The interpreter’s performance was slated on social media, especially by the Deaf community, certified sign language interpreters and signing organisations, and Manatee County’s choice of interpreter had soon made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

A spokesman for the county later tried to justify their actions, saying that the interpreter has a deaf brother and was asked to sign at the conference because they had little time to find a professional interpreter but knew that the information needed to be accessible to all residents.

The founder of a sign language interpreting agency in Florida later said that her company did not receive any requests from Manatee County for interpreters to work at the Irma news conference, despite having provided numerous interpreters for the county in the past.

The officials who organised the conference deemed someone with experience signing to a family member as suitable to sign to residents of an entire county on a topic as important as emergency evacuation procedures.

Despite this being a rather extreme example of the consequences of hiring an unqualified translator or interpreter, you would be surprised at how many companies still try to save time or money by using individuals who have knowledge of another language but no professional translation or interpreting experience.

And while the results may not always be as catastrophic as those seen at the Manatee County news conference, they can still leave a bad impression and make a company appear unprofessional and incompetent.

At Tongue Tied, our translators and interpreters possess relevant qualifications, have vast amounts of professional experience and are specialists in their respective subject areas. We can provide both consecutive and simultaneous interpreters for a variety of events, including one-to-one meetings, focus groups and conferences.

If you would like more information on any of our services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. And if you have any thoughts on anything we’ve talked about in this post, please let us know in the comments!


Isabella Fink

Isabella Fink

I am native Austrian and studied Linguistics and Literature at the University of Innsbruck and in Manchester, so language and translation has always been a passion of mine. Before joining Tongue Tied, I have worked as a Translation Assistant and in Customer Services and Purchasing.

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1 Comment

  1. maryb

    An interpreter on the other hand is not a writer but a speaker, and has a more immediate task because interpreting is often simultaneous. Hence, it is important for the interpreter to have years of experience, expertise in a specific medical field or branch of medical practice and has knowledge of the terminology in the particular field, such as pediatrics, cardiothoracic, psychology, orthopedics, oncology, gastroenterology, pathology, neurology, urology and more. Consistency The LSP should have style guides and glossaries to ensure that the translation of medical texts and other documents remain consistent and conform to the requirements of the medical institution. custom writing


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