Interpreter Managers receive more complaints about interpreters related to their use of phones (and pagers) than they do about their ability to interpret accurately. Otherwise brilliant interpreters can be in the doghouse because of the way they managed, or failed to manage, their communication devices.
Phone & pager complaints usually involve the following situations:
The interpreter was looking at his phone and interacting with it, rather than being attentive to the person(s) requiring the interpretation, before the encounter and during gaps of staff presence.
The interpreter’s phone rang during the encounter, the interpreter looked at the caller ID, and the interpreter then quickly muttered into the phone that she was busy but would call the caller back soon.
The interpreter talked about interpreter business on the phone in earshot of the one of the parties.
The interpreter was talking on the phone in the busy corridor, with staff trying to work around him.
The interpreter’s pager went off during the encounter, and she not only silenced it but read the display before putting it away.
Now let’s talk honestly about the fact that these complaints can feel unfair!
Interpreters have a lot to juggle during the day, and their phones and pagers are essential tools to managing their daily schedule.
Given that healthcare interpreters might be being paged to an emergency, or freelance interpreters might be receiving the offer of a lucrative assignment, the temptation or even requirement for the interpreter to check the incoming message is strong.
Also given that interpreters want to be given high marks for professionalism, here are some tips.
Interpreters can minimize the annoyance of everyone they deal with by following these guidelines religiously:
If you are actually doing something related to your professional assignment on your phone, share that with the people in the room. “We were talking about traditional medicine for high blood pressure, so I am looking up some terms on the internet, for just a moment.”
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