I recently posted to this blog a short clip from the BBC which showed just why professional interpreters are so vital. As it turned out, in this case the outcome was pretty funny and made the interviewer rather than the football player look silly.

But in the vast majority of encounters like this it is vital to have professional trained help on hand to aid communication between people with different languages and cultures. All too often this is forgotten about or done on the cheap.

A great analogy is if your car broke down. You’ve got several options:

  1. Fix it yourself
  2. Find a friend of a friend who has a vague knowledge of cars
  3. Call a professional mechanic

Try to fix it yourself and you’ll probably struggle: modern cars are run mainly by computers and need a high level of technical know-how to fix them, plus you probably don’t have the time.

Using a friend of a friend sounds convenient, but even if they are a trained mechanic, chances are that as it’s for a “mate” and they’re not charging you full rate you won’t get any guarantee, plus you’ll feel awkward if you have to go back and complain in the future.

Call a professional mechanic and, yes, you’ll pay for the privilege, but you’re paying for their expertise, knowledge, infrastructure, customer care, guarantee and service. They’ll be insured in case the mechanic crashes your car as he drives it back to you. You’ll have the knowledge that should anything go wrong you’ll have someone higher up the ladder to raise your concerns with. And most of all you’ll feel reassured because you know that they’ll do a great job.

So if you feel this way about your car, why wouldn’t you follow the same process when you use an interpreter, translator or transcriber?

Well, that’s why using a professional is so important.