ALC 2011 Roundtable: Quality Control for Interpreters

The Association of Language Companies (ALC) puts on its annual conference in Las Vegas on May 18-21, 2011.

Roundtable: Quality Control for Interpreters
Kristin Quinlan (Certified Languages International)

Kathleen Diamond and Kristin Quinlan

How can companies make sure their interpreters are of the highest caliber? Issues discussed:

  • Employees versus contractors; in some companies, all interpreters are employees (particularly in CA); in others, they are independent contractors.
  • A Wisconsin company got three audits in nine years; decided to make all their interpreters employees.
  • Employee model is expensive but safe.
  • Quality control: some companies send observers for on-site interpreting (both announced an unannounced); expensive but effective quality assessment. Other companies rely on client feedback.
  • Other quality control methods mentioned: six-week onboarding process, battery of tests (written and oral), in-field supervisors, continuous education.
  • Observing interpreters by LSPs who employ them is a fascinating experience and is also appreciated by the interpreters.
  • Question: How do you use quality control methods like on-site observation if you service clients globally? What else you can do for quality control? Answer: A pre-qualified Lead Interpreter can take on that role.
  • Interpreter certification is unique in that it is bestowed on the interpreter often without any follow up, observation, monitoring, etc.
  • Recruiting: Through website; recruiting department; ProZ; ATA; ads in in-language newspapers locally; relationships with local non-English communities; relationships with immigration organizations (who can alert LSPs about influx of new immigrants from a particular region); churches and mosques; restaurants; stores; determine who the industry leaders are in a particular communities and develop relationships with them; your interpreters can provide referrals; college international clubs.
  • Quality control in languages of lesser diffusion: Role-play scenarios; one interpreter tests another.
  • Quality review: In OPI, written evaluations are common with suggestions for improvement.
  • Dealing with client complaints: Not always an interpreter error – analysis is needed first. Formal written report for the client is recommended. Train the client how to work with interpreters. Suggestion: print the instructions on the back of usage cards.
  • ASTM International has a subcommittee for interpreters.
  • Interpreters should be trained not only how to interpret, but also how to do quality control and interact with clients.