Sun Tzu is credited with saying "The line between disorder and order lies in logistics." As professional trainers, you know this truth all too well. The most well written curriculum can become futile if logistics get in the way, and few logistical tasks will impact your class more hazardously than the need for an on-site interpreter.
The legal requirements to provide an interpreter in the classroom vary based on industry and meeting scope. However, the involvement of a limited English speaking student and their communication needs will still have to be addressed. Once you have determined that an interpreter is needed to assist one or more limited English proficient (LEP) participants, there are a few key logistical factors to consider:
How many LEPs are in attendance and for what languages?
The more LEPs in your course, the more logistical considerations arise. For example, if there are 10 Spanish speakers, you may want to group them together for projects or discussions with one interpreter rather than having an individual interpreter for each Spanish-speaker.
Do you want Simultaneous or Consecutive Interpretation?
Simultaneous Interpretation is the oral interpretation of a speaker's words into another language while the speaker is still speaking. This usually requires the use of an interpretation booth and audio equipment (with a headset for every LEP). If more than one language will be interpreted (i.e. Spanish and German), Simultaneous Interpretation is usually the best option.
Note: For Deaf Individuals Simultaneous ASL will occur without the use of equipment but typically requires the provision of multiple interpreters.
Consecutive Interpretation is the oral interpretation of a speaker's words into another language when the speaker pauses every few minutes to allow time for interpretation. This method does not require the use of specialized equipment, but it will extend the course time to allow for interpretation.
How many Interpreters are needed?
Generally speaking, appointments including any of the following factors may require a team of interpreters (two or more linguists) for each language:
- The appointment lasts longer than 2 hours.
- Simultaneous Interpretation is required.
- Multiple LEP's are expected to be in attendance.
What additional materials require written translation/interpretation?
If the class includes videos, online modules, written handbooks, tests or handouts, these materials may need to be translated in advance to ensure appropriate learning for all participants. Additional services may include foreign language subtitling or voiceovers.
Are there any time limitations that must be extended?
Additional time may need to be allocated to LEP participants. We have a client who stipulates a three-minute time limit on audience questions during large meetings. For audience members requiring an interpreter, this time limit was extended to six minutes to allow time for the LEP to verbalize their question and then for the interpreter to interpret. Time limitations may need to be extended for the overall course agenda if consecutive interpretation is utilized.
Will the Interpreter be needed for assistance beyond the class itself?
On occasion clients will request that interpreters meet the LEP at the sign-in table to assist with registration, accompany them for lunches, or assist with key conversations outside of the training class.
Preparing in advance for these important details will help ensure the success of your training program with a multi-lingual audience. Have you had any unique experiences scheduling on-site interpreters that you'd like to share? Or perhaps have a question about navigating interpretation logistics? Please send us your comments.