Why not a less expensive good new interpreter?

January 23, 2013 § 5 Comments

Dear colleagues:

When I recently wrote about the difference between hiring a less expensive interpreter instead of paying for a good seasoned experienced one, some colleagues raised the scenario where a new interpreter could be good but newer to the profession. The issue was that this new colleague could be as good as an experienced interpreter minus the years in the booth. If a client can retain the services of such a professional for less money, why bother with a more expensive interpreter who would be charging more just because of the years of professional work.

It seems to me that this is a very valid point and worth of analysis. It is a well-known fact that there are many extremely good interpreters entering the market every year. I know it because I have worked with some of them. They are good, professional, reliable, and they charge less than a well established top-level interpreter. The perfect answer to a client’s need!

However, and there is always a “however,” the business of interpretation is much more than booth performance and professional attitude. It is my personal experience that the client wants a one-stop all-inclusive service that frees him to do everything else needed to have a successful event. When a client is paying top money for an experienced interpreter he or she expects a professional who knows about booth location, interpretation equipment, and much more. They want an interpreter who is able to suggest equipment, technician, protocol, and many other things. My clients hire me because of my booth performance, but they also know that they can count on me for all dealings with the rest of the interpreters, tech support, booth location, speaker orientation, and the intangibles like the best coffee shop near the convention center, the closest Ipad charging station at the airport, a good restaurant suggestion at the conference site, and tons of other things that they expect the good interpreter to know. I know that many of my colleagues have seen the sign of relief on a client’s face when you tell them that you know the technician, that you have worked with him; or when you arrive at the hotel or convention center and the local staff greets you as an old friend. They love it when you can get the extra wireless microphones, or the additional thirty minutes of conference room after they were told it was impossible to do it. Well, this is why the client is paying the experienced interpreters’ fees. If a short-sighted client wants excellent work in the booth and nothing else, a new good and inexpensive interpreter is an attractive option, but if the client was to forget about interpretation and concentrate on everything else, she or he will happily pay for the services of a one-stop high-quality seasoned well-known interpreter.

I personally believe that a good solution is a mix of several top-notch interpreters and an all-star team of newcomers. I have always loved to teach everything I know to the new generation, and I know I am not alone; many of you do the same. Therefore, my answer to those who contacted me after my previous posting is: There is a difference between great new interpreters and great experienced interpreters that goes beyond the fee we charge. Let’s build the next generation of interpreters by working together, teaching them the many nuances of the profession, and showing them that a good interpreter should never charge little money. I would love to hear your comments.

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§ 5 Responses to Why not a less expensive good new interpreter?

  • Great post, Tony! Those examples are a great illustration of the value that a seasoned professional adds. I think that having a network of trusted colleagues is a huge advantage that clients really need. When someone gets sick at the last minute, or they need a technician in Anchorage, or they need an interpreter who does Italian to Finnish or whatever the latest crisis is, an experienced person can handle it, and can even call in favors for a really good client. I think that all of us need to do our part to encourage newcomers to interpreting and translation (assuming we want to retire someday!), but clients also need to realize that they are unwise to depend exclusively on less experienced people, especially if that decision is made for financial reasons.

  • notaohio says:

    You are right on the money, Tony. Recently a local court administrator appreciated the time I took to suggest other trusted interpreters a la project management. That left one or two less phone calls in her day and she’ll call me again. She doesn’t balk at the fee. That court asked me to present to court personnel on how to work with professional interpreters as concerned family members who interpreted couldn’t perform simultaneously. From that came a chance to present before seventy juvenile court judges at their judicial college.

    You mentioned knowing where to find a nice cup of coffee. Small talk of this nature has helped clients to see that I’m more than a voice. i’ll continue to mentor others as i was mentored. How else is our field to progress? Thanks for the topic.

  • Luisa Veyan says:

    Thank you for this interesting post. I will share it in my facepage..

  • Hello! Thank you for the interesting post. Your post reflects very much of the expertise theory which is a research approach from psychology that is quite popular among interpreting researchers as well. Research on expertise has shown that experts (regardless of profession) have access to expert knowledge when needed. This means that on routine tasks, experts and novices will not differ very much. However, when the task got extremely difficult, experts performed much better. They had access to expert knowledge that helped them in such situations. I have written some more about expertise here: http://cogtrans.blogspot.fr/2011/10/fresh-out-of-interpreting-school-i-was.html

  • Hello to all from Belgium.
    all the comments for sure have a point. Nevertheless I would not want to go the discussion into more or less money for more or less experienced interpreters. All the work you do besides the booth is in fact an extra service you render that many of our customers appreciate AND should pay for.
    As to recommending to work for less money, I find it very very dangerous. We are (most of us) individual self employed, but we belong to the vaste community of conference interpreters. Hence we never should loose sight of the community interests.
    In times when company purchasing managers decide about offers (and not those people who listen to us in conferences) it would be a lethal spiral moneywise to give in in fees.
    We have a very special talent. I always compare it to formula 1 drivers: billions of people have a driving licence. Billions of people speak several languages. But who has the talent to do simultaneous translation? And this special talent needs to be rewarded. I do not even speak of our difficulties with several job offers for the same day, where we, unlike most other professions, can only accept one.
    The community should be a higher good than doing billion dollar earning companies a favor…

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