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How to Hire an Interpreter

There are two main ways to set up interpreting services: on your own; or through an agency.

If you’ve never arranged interpreting services before, you have a complex schedule to organize, and you don’t have much time to arrange everything, you would be better off using an agency. On the other hand, if you have a simple request, plenty of time, and a tight budget, you may prefer to hire the interpreter(s) directly.

Sometimes people who are searching for interpreters have the impression that there are very few of them around. Most of NorCRID’s members are working interpreters in the Bay Area and Northern California. A helpful analogy is to think of interpreters like the roads in our area. Most of the time, there are plenty of lanes to go around, but that is not the case during peak traffic times and rush hour.

Hiring an interpreter can seem expensive. Interpreters earn a living from their work just like other professionals. We have families and partners and children and homes just like you do. In addition, unless interpreters are staff interpreters, they pay their own health insurance and self-employment (employer) taxes, fund their own retirement plans, and spend more money on their cars than people who have a regular and predictable commute.

Here are a few tips to improve your chances of successfully hiring the right interpreters when you need them:

  • Call about two weeks in advance of your meeting. Call as far ahead as you can for meetings, medical appointments and special events. Planners often forget about or overlook the need for interpreters. Calling at the last minute, or even 3 or 4 days ahead, may result in disappointment.
  • Try to be flexible when scheduling meetings and appointments. We may be available at a slightly different hour or on another day.
  • Establish ongoing relationships with individual professionals. Interpreters who work with you regularly will try to accommodate you.
  • Treat interpreters like professionals. Interpreters who enjoy working with you will try to make their schedules fit your schedule. Know when you need to hire interpreters in teams.
  • Choose an agency service provider and work with their staff to anticipate busy times when the demand for interpreters is high both during the day and by season.
  • Pay interpreters on time and according to local standards. You should pay for mileage and parking. You might consider paying travel time in the Bay Area if getting to your place of business or your event is difficult.
  • Create a staff position if you have ongoing communication needs.

Hiring an interpreter for your communication needs can be a daunting task. NorCRID allows referral agencies to join as organizational members and be listed here on our website. An interpreter referral agency can guide you through the process of getting your communication needs met. NorCRID does not endorse any particular agency above another. Organizational members are listed in alphabetical order. You are encouraged to call several until you to find the one that meets your particular needs best. Most agencies serve a wide area; thus their address does not necessarily indicate areas served.

If you would like to hire an interpreter directly, please read the following information as a way to begin to educate yourself. You can locate interpreters directly by searching the database of our parent organization, The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, by visiting www.RID.org. Alternatively, you may describe your communication needs in an email and post it to the NorCRID list, which is a free Yahoo group that many interpreters in the Bay Area and beyond subscribe to.

Some guidelines for posting a call for interpreters:

  • State the desired date, time and duration of the assignment. If you are flexible on these items, indicate that.
  • State the location. (The exact address is not necessary, especially if it would compromise confidentiality)
  • Briefly describe the communication event. Is it a one-on-one meeting, an recurring class, a conference? Does it take place outside, on a stage? How many Deaf people are expected to participate?
  • State the preferred mode of communication of the Deaf person(s) if known.
  • DO NOT disclose any identifying or personal information regarding the Deaf person(s), including their name(s).
  • Be sure to include as much information about how to contact you as you are comfortable.

You may get several responses or none at all. The earlier you begin looking for interpreters, the more likely you are to fill your need.

Click here to post to the NorCRID list

How to Select An Interpreter

NorCRID takes a formal position which states that a consumer’s best tools to evaluate choices of interpreters are:

  1. Certification (confirmed by RID listings)
  2. Adherence to the Code of Professional Conduct, and
  3. Deaf consumer preference.

Many people who are trying to locate an interpreter may not realize that they have an expert right under their very noses: the Deaf consumer of interpreting services. Deaf people may not always be able to recommend interpreters by name, they often know what qualities to look for in interpreters. Even Deaf consumers who know little about interpreting, know who they like to be around and who they trust. Over time, you’ll come to know when communication is effective as well.

When you hire interpreters regularly, it’s worth the time to develop relationships with several professionals. Interpreting is likely to be more comfortable for everybody when there is consistency in communication protocol and when the interpreter is familiar with the context of your interactions. However, “freelance” interpreters accept appointments from a variety of interpreter referral services, businesses, medical providers, schools, and government offices so you may not be able to hire the same professional every time you need one.

Reliable interpreters adhere to the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct which has defined the professional behavior of interpreters for many years. Some interpreters also act as consultants or teachers-but not while they are interpreting.

Interpreters must gain and keep the respect of the Deaf and hearing consumers with whom they work. They have an obligation to remain fair and objective, which is one reason that it’s not a good idea to hire family members or friends who are not qualified interpreters even if they are competent signers.


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