As with any market, there are different levels of quality and expertise. Hiring on the “gray market” is never a good idea: it may be less expensive; however, quality of services may significantly suffer. In worst cases, there is a complete breakdown of communication due to poor interpretation. How do you tell the difference?
Potential clients may want to use the following tips:
It is always best to look for “one stop shopping”, “turn key” solutions. Setting up a team of interpreters, arranging for interpretation equipment for a conference, interpreter logistics, etc. are challenging exercises. It is best to find one conference interpretation company or a consultant interpreter, who know what they are doing.
It may be better if your consultant is an “insider” i.e. a professional conference interpreter himself. You should request information about your consultant, including resume, work experience, references, etc.
Request an estimate from at least several conference interpretation companies or consultants. It is never wise to make your decision exclusively on price: “the greedy pay twice”. Quality conference interpretation is a bespoke professional service, and no one would hire a surgeon based only on the price of his services.
Remember also that different interpretation companies work in different market segments, and it may be counterproductive to hire a court interpreter or a medical interpreter, for example, for a highly technical conference interpretation assignment. Therefore, you need to know something about the interpreters you will be hiring.
Good questions to ask are:
Do they have professional interpreter education? For example, MA in Conference Interpretation or an equivalent degree?
How many years of experience do they have providing simultaneous interpretation?
Are they members of any professional interpreter associations that have strict admission requirements, for example, AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters) or TAALS (American Association of Language Specialists) ?
Ask for references from your potential language services provider and contact them to get an impression about the company’s performance, customer satisfaction and willingness to work again.
Most conference interpreters travel extensively and work worldwide. High quality market dictates that for top notch quality interpreters it does not really matter where they live, what matters is the quality of interpretation they provide. Cost of traveling is insignificant compared to guaranteed quality of services.
It may be necessary to fly in an experienced interpreter, so be prepared for possible travel expenses. Of course, a reputable language services provider will try to find local interpreters first, but it may not always be possible. A responsible interpretation services provider shall not compromise its reputation by offering substandard interpreters.
And, most importantly, start early! There is a very limited number of top notch experienced conference interpreters on the high end market, they are freelancers, and they are usually busy for up to several months in advance. In our past experience, it is virtually impossible to find an experienced interpreter at a short notice.