On the Job: How to Introduce Yourself as an Interpreter

At any interpreting job, it’s safe to assume the possibility that your clients have not worked with interpreters. Even if they have, the interpreters they’ve worked with may not have explained to them how it works. This is why it’s helpful when you introduce yourself, to also ask if they’ve worked with an interpreter, and if they haven’t, slip in your 20-second spiel to explain your role and how the session will go.

The introduction should be short, brief, and to the point. Your goal is to convey your role and to let the clients know how to communicate through an interpreter. Sometimes you’ll find it hard to explain your role because the service provider (doctor, lawyer, etc.) may be impatient, but try your best to get through it.

Your self-introduction should include four elements.
1. Confidentiality- Everything said will be kept confidential. This applies especially to legal and medical interpreting cases.

2. First person- Everything will be interpreted in first person. If the patient says, “my head hurts,” the interpreter will relay, “my head hurts,” for the provider.

3. Flow of Communication- To ensure the flow of communication, interpreters should ask all parties to speak directly to each other and keep sentences short to ensure accuracy of the message. Interpreters should also assign a hand motion to signal pauses (in case the speaker goes on too long) to allow time to complete the interpretation.

4. Everything- Everything that is said will be interpreted, even if it was not directed to the other party. For example: If the doctor has side conversations with the nurse and you and the patient can both hear it, interpret it. The patient has the right to hear everything spoken in the room.

Here’s an example of what you can say.
My name is [Name], hired by [Agency], and I will be interpreting for you and the patient/client today. I will repeat everything that is said today, and everything will be interpreted in first person. To ensure accuracy, please keep your sentences short. If i raise my hand like this [stop signal], please pause so I can catch up. Finally, I will keep everything said here confidential.

Note: When speaking to the provider, you’ll use your source language, and when speaking to the client, you’ll repeat the same information in the target language.

What if the Provider Says He’s Worked with Interpreters?
If the provider has worked with interpreters, they may not want to or need to spend the extra 20 seconds with you to learn about something they already know how to do. Don’t force it. But during the session, if you notice that the provider is speaking to you and not to the client, you can make gentle nudges to help them speak directly to the client. This is not just about following the “rules” of interpreting, it’s also about showing respect to the client. Even though our clients have limited fluency in English, some of them still understand a little bit of English, and hearing the provider say, “tell him this, tell him that,” would not feel good to them at all.

Our role as interpreters is to act as conduits and help make  communication possible between people who speak different languages. We care about our clients and want to make sure that everyone involved is kept in the loop, that’s why we should insist on interpreting everything and monitoring the flow of communication.

Interpreters care about helping their clients communicate. {photo courtesy of xdxs}

How do you introduce yourself at interpreting jobs? What are the challenges you find? I’d love to hear from you!

Good luck and happy interpreting.


30 thoughts on “On the Job: How to Introduce Yourself as an Interpreter

  1. Hi there
    Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Kate and I am an interpreter based in the UK who works in the same language pair as you. I have just found your blog and I must say I enjoy it tremendously. I am originally from Taiwan and have been freelancing since 2005. I love what I do and I respect this title very much, so keeping us on our toes at all times is crucial in terms of being professional and I found your blog is doing just that.
    I was nodding a lot when reading your posts and I agree on most of the things you mentioned. I can tell that you have a passion for languages and your job, and I believe we have much in common.
    I just wanted to thank you for the reminder. This blog is wonderfully done.
    In the UK, the introduction before sessions is pretty much the same as what you have covered, although I normally throw in the “impartiality” bit as well.
    Keep up the good work! xx

    1. Nice introduction and I failed interpreter’s introduction several times because I failed to follow guidelines and principles of Interpreter.But finally!!

    2. Hello I am working as a Burmese interpreter, Sometimes I failed to follow what i need to say introduction part .However, i understand that i should continue doing the same process in every assignment to increase the professional conduct .

  2. Hello, I am Luna Dari Interpreter for XXXX .I will interpret everything said today as accurately and faithfully as possible. Please speak directly to each other, using in short and clear sentences. I will keep everything I hear confidential unless required by law. I will remain impartial. I may take notes to aid my memory, but I will destroy them at the end of the session unless required by law. If needed, I may interrupt you to ask for clarification. Can I be your interpreter today?
    I will now introduce myself in Dari language

    1. HI Luna,
      I really like your introduction. In the sales environment where I come from we call this a positioning statement and is crucial in setting the scene for the remainder of the interview.

  3. Even if they’ve used an interpreter before, we still can make it personal, and it is quite so as interpreters may work differently, and they will hear our introduction. For example, “Hi, I am Thea. I’m here to interpret today. Have you used an interpreter before?” answer is ‘yes, many times’ I’d say, “oh good, so I’ll just quickly say something that I may do differently. When I raise my hand like this [show it] please give me sometime to catch up. And I’m going to interpret in the first person all the time because it’s better for me, please speak directly with your client. That’s it. I’m ready when you’re ready”

    1. Hi Thea,
      Great variation and adaptation to the circumstances. Whilst respectful, very informative. Great intro.

  4. Hi there I totally agree with your above blog. The need to introduce yourself to the client and ensure that they area aware of who you are and your role as an interpreter is vital. This is particularly important if the parties have not worked with an interpreter before.
    The disclosure that the interpreter is bound by confidentiality allows the LOTE client to be comfortable and make disclosure accordingly particularly in sensitive matters in hospital or courts.

  5. Hi, I am a student, we are studying about : How an interpreter must introduce herself.
    I liked the blog because gave me more ideas to introduce myself in future.
    I think is very important for two parties to know the interpreter, and to know how the interpreter can help to make the communication easier between them.
    Thank you.

  6. I mostly agreed with the blog perspective, however, no need to give names, as the role as an interpreter her is the most important thing to be told.

  7. I agree with that, all about the introduction. That’s key. Makes all the difference.The disclosure that the interpreter is bound by confidentiality allows the LOTE client to be comfortable and make disclosure accordingly particularly in sensitive matters in hospital or courts.

  8. I totally agree with you about introduction. It is important to introduce ourselves as a professional interpreter.

  9. I love this eseential intro,
    In the sales environment we callded this a Positioning Statement. It sets the tone for the entire interaction, manages all expectations and eliminates most misunderstandings.
    Thank you.

  10. Very informative blog I totally agree with the author. It is always good to appropriately introduce yourself and how interpreting works. It doesn’t matter if the ES has worked with the interpreter before, a brief introduction must be conveyed.

  11. I believe the first impression is something that a person remember and people would like to work with trusted people, as trust is earned, working with someone for the first time will not allow to have an experience to build trust on then if we introduce our self properly it will give the Lote speaker an opportunity to know what we believe then who we are and it will build an atmosphere of trust especially when they know that we respect Confidentiality, and we are there to facilitate the conversation, not to assist then they will not be hurt from expectation. I believe that time is valuable then we need set the rules to secure a flow of communication and accuracy of the message.
    it was good to learn the appropriate way to introduce myself!

  12. 1. Confidentiality-
    2. First person-
    3. Flow of Communication- all parties to speak directly to each other
    4. keep sentences short to ensure flow in the translation
    5. Assign a hand motion to signal pause
    5. Accuracy .
    6. Impartiality .
    7. Everything- Everything that is said will be interpreted, even if it was not directed to the other party.
    the above words should be the bible for a professional interpreter.
    Thank you for sharing
    Desiree Meoushy

  13. hello,
    It is so important to introduce yourself and make it clear how whole interpreting job works!

    Once I attended a meeting with the speaker hogs the microphone so at the end the interpreter started speaking over him. it wasn’t good session….

    Thank you for the informative tips. I enjoyed reading.


  14. This article is useful for me. However, I think the full introduction is more suitable with the the assignment in which all parties work with each other for the first time than the assignment in which all parties have work with each other for some time.

  15. I do agree with many great points mentioned on this blog. Only one thing that I’m not sure whether the rule “everything said in the room will be interpreted” will apply to all circumstances. What if the doctor for example picks up his/her phone and starts talking about his/her personal/confidential matter, or speaks with other unknown languages?

  16. It is important to follow all the steps to reach good introduction, it helps every one to understand and be aware about his role. when interpreter makes it clear to the client and provider from the beginning, the case will be smoothly done.

  17. Hello, I’m a student; currently working on introduction and role definition. I would do introduction following all the guideline provided. This is very useful information. Thank you.

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