The Couch

The Couch – Avoiding Horror Stories Through Client Education

The Couch is a learning place, not only for its contributors but also for our readers who engage in the ensuing discussions. So much has changed in the performance of our profession that educating clients about how to work more effectively with interpreters has become an absolute necessity. How has your approach to client education changed?

In keeping with the season, our theme on The NAJIT Observer this month is horror stories. As interpreters and translators, we’ve all encountered scary people and situations, but we’ve also lived to tell the tale!

Perhaps the most common horror story we face is when clients have no idea how to work with us, or even worse, what they think they know is completely wrong. This problem is even worse now when everyone is literally afraid for their safety—or should be. Plus, we’re all getting accustomed to new technologies, which bring their own set of horrors!

Interpreters and translators know that client education is an intrinsic part of our profession. Simply put, we are the experts and our clients often don’t know our key protocols. As the experts, it is incumbent upon us to explain to our clients the practices that will prevent misunderstandings, confusion, and other nightmares for all involved. Client education is even more important now during this pandemic.

Last month, Athena Matilsky wrote about the importance of a pre-sessions and managing communication flow—a great example of client education. Sandro Tomasi wrote a post about using transceivers to stay safe and protect confidentiality. While his post is informative to us, it can also be used to educate court personnel —in fact, we’ve already heard that it will be shared within the British Columbia courts. Janis Palma wrote about how interpreters have to teach everyone the new ways of working in virtual courtrooms, even if it means speaking up and taking us out of our comfort zone.

The Couch would like to hear what kind of client education you are doing, how often, and in what settings. How has your approach to client education changed with the pandemic? What lessons have you learned?

Of course, please do not include any identifying information on individuals you may reference.

Also, since client education is an on-going process, here is a list of remote interpreting resources from the Oregon Judicial Department. Check out the 4-page COVID Interpreting toolkit and the videos (VRI Training Equipment Needs is only 5:32 long and describes the equipment needed to interpret in the simultaneous mode).

Share with us, your fellow interpreters and translators, your experiences with client education, especially any that could have been a horror story or prevented one! Also, please share other resources you think would be useful to The NAJIT Observer readers.

We are listening (reading)!

Please note: If you have a topic you’d like to see discussed on The Couch write to the Editor. The comments section here should be used only to reply to the issue under discussion today. When you submit a question or topic for The Couch we will make sure to remove all information that might make the parties or case identifiable.

Check out other topics discussed here and here.


6 thoughts on “The Couch – Avoiding Horror Stories Through Client Education”

  1. Gio Lester says:

    Great point. I actually need some help with strategies. Clients do not realize that interpreting in front of the screen for too long a period of time causes issues beyond eye strain: the disconnect between what we see/hear/location has a psychological impact too. I made a comment the other day that it seems the value of our work was measured by how far we had to travel to deliver it, because everyone wants to reduce our rates with the excuse “You don’t even have to live home!”

    Sorry, but I am still delivering the same quality you paid for when I had to hope on a car or a plane to meet you.

  2. The resources suggested are unnecessarily complicated. Zoom offers a more professional and simpler method so that the interpreter can concentrate on doing their job and not the technology. See this video presentation if you want to simplify your task:

  3. Sylvia J. Andrade says:

    I charge the same as I was charging before, without the mileage. The problems I have are sometimes related to problems on the network or my own local network. Another problems is that the attorneys request clients give personal identifying information on camera. This information could be picked up by others who are not a party to the action and used in other venues– or to commit fraud. I believe it would be safer if the attorneys would exchange social security, driver’s license and matricula consular information by fax or other safe means before the deposition. (I do taxes, as well as interpret and am aware of what can happen when this information gets in the wrong hands. I could tell you some horror stories!)

    1. Gladys Matthews says:

      Hello Sylvia,
      Your great example about attorneys requesting personal information such as social security and driver’s license information on camera is very revealing. It makes me wonder how knowledgeable attorneys and others in the court system are about the privacy/confidentiality features of the remote interpreting platform they are using. One also wonders if by requesting such information in a remote environment the attorney would not violating their own code of ethics. Last Friday, I attended “Approaches to Managing Juvenile Cases in the COVID Era,” a 90-minute webinar sponsored by the National Center for State Courts. Panelists shared how their respective court systems were handling caseloads and what VRI platforms were being used. I could not help myself and asked if input from language interpreters was considered when selecting those platforms, and almost all of the panelists said it was. I hope that’s true, but regardless it is important that we educate ourselves to help educate others.

  4. Jaqueline Neves Nordin says:

    Educating clients is a never-ending story. I tend to believe that it’s not their fault.
    Don’t take it personally, they are simply acting in ignorance and that’s OK. We are the ones that need to know the bits and pieces of our profession. Clients usually think it’s “just” speaking in another language, or you don’t even have to leave your house, right? Especially when they are not versed in a second/third language and/or have no idea about the issues involving remote interpreting.The list is immensely long when it comes to horror stories…

    Since we are aware it is a never-ending story, let us not let the bitterness of our clients bite us. We can educate them respectfully just a little bit (or a lot) every time we meet them. Eventually, they will understand our role and maybe even collaborate to make our life “easier”. I regret to say that’s a reality which might never come to be true. We cannot choose the way people react or treat us, but we can choose how to deal with the situation. Let us choose wisely.

    1. Gladys Matthews says:

      Good point, Jaqueline. Being assertive is not only necessary but required by our code of ethics. To be able to remove obstacles to performance, interpreters must be assertive, but in the remote interpreting era, this can be even more frightening. Polite assertiveness is what is in order.

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