Applying Interpreting to International Trade

What do professional interpreters contribute to exporting?

More often than not, we hear business consultants and trade and marketing experts say that people prefer doing business with people. True. Absolutely true. I can attest to that in my own profession as well.

See, I am professional corporate, diplomatic, and conference interpreter of English and Spanish, specialised in Latin America and the UK, and I spend my days connecting people with people. They put in their message, I put in the words – in the other language, that is.

It may all sound very fancy but, at the end of the day, the truth is that interpreters are not but professional consultants that can assist you with your work. I emphasise and keep using the word “professional” because it is key to what we do.

Speaking a foreign language to nearly if not native level is the first and most basic requirement for interpreters; it is our starting point. To that, and through thorough and extensive training, we add interpreting techniques -such as simultaneous, consecutive, and first sight interpreting-, research techniques, diction and pronunciation, and business and international protocol and etiquette to the mix. Plus a few other things.

What does this all mean to you, then?

Well, it means that we repeat what you say but in another language but also that:

  • we keep up with your meeting and your conversation seamlessly and effortlessly, so that there are no interruptions, delays or awkward silences;
  • we translate what is said accurately without adding, editing or summarising, so that there are no miscommunications or misunderstandings;
  • we know your industry and your jargon -learning it is part of our job-, so that your interlocutor can appreciate the nuances of what you say and also your own industry knowledge;
  • we remain impartial 110% of the time, so that what is originally said suffers no alterations;
  • we maintain a professional attitude, so that we fall in line with the spirit of your meeting and become almost an invisible part of the proceedings;
  • we have cultural awareness and know how to approach yours and the other culture, so that things run smoothly from the first handshake; and finally,
  • we understand that collaboration is key and that your success is our success.

But does this mean that interpreters can only assist exporters during meetings?

Not necessarily. Interpreters are very versatile so we also interpret during tours and visits to factories, farms, exhibitions (you name it), phone conferences, video conferences, traditional conferences, debates, breakfast briefings, and even extended trips. We may do what is known as whispering, which consists of actually whispering to one or two people’s ears what is being said or simply use portable devices so that a larger audience can hear us while maintaining their personal space intact.

As you can see, professional interpreters have a lot to contribute to the work of exporters and it still surprises me when a client, after a successful and fruitful assignment, happily says that they had no idea how useful having an interpreter on board could be.

If people prefer doing business with people and people connect with people through words, wouldn’t it be the most natural thing to add to your team those professionals who actually connect worlds with words?

“To succeed in business it’s necessary to make others see things as you see them.”

John H. Patterson

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