nsinterpretingProper communication is essential in all matters, but especially when representing clients with a limited English vocabulary. Using a trained interpreter for your non-English-speaking clients allows them to fully participate in meetings, appointments and other proceedings which affect them. A wrong word due to limited language skills or omitted information can drastically change the outcome of a situation.

Trained interpreters ensure that clients get the information they need to understand their rights and make informed decisions. Use of an interpreter offers you the ability to understand your clients and know they are understanding you.

Nova Scotia Interpreting Services (NSIS) is a local non-profit society providing professional, reliable and confidential interpreting within the Atlantic Provinces since 1994. As of April 2012, all potential members must pass the Interpreter Language and Skills Assessment Tool (ILSAT) with a 75%, prior to enrollment in our minimum of 30 hours of interpreter training.  As well, all must have a clean criminal record check.  All NSIS staff and interpreters have signed confidentiality agreements. The ability to speak the language is only part of it, a trained interpreter can aid in your understanding.

Perhaps you have never used an interpreter before? Nova Scotia Interpreting Services can arrange a free information session with your organization on how to work with interpreters, just call 902-425-6604 (great to add to a staff meeting or a lunch and learn session).

In the meantime, here are some helpful tips for working with interpreters:

  • Allow additional time, it takes a little longer than a 2 way conversation, so be patient. Speak clearly. Pause frequently to allow the interpreter to render all the information.
  • All communication is confidential. It is not the interpreters’ place, nor is it ethical, to give their personal opinion.
  • Interpreters are trained to speak in first person – they are the voice.
  • Ask the client to repeat back important information to make sure they understand.
  • Avoid the use of slang, idiomatic expressions, highly technical vocabulary or jargon.
  • Be aware that vocabulary you use may not have comparable words in other languages, so it may have to be explained.
  • Friends and family members can bring biases. An interpreter is there to be sure you get to hear exactly what is being said, and not what someone thinks you should hear.
  • Always feel free to ask questions!


Call Nova Scotia Interpreting Services anytime! 24-hour dispatch number is 902-425-5532

If you have questions or would like further information please call NS Interpreting Services Executive Director Ann Cochran at 902-425-6604 or visit their website – www.interpretingservices.ca.
You can also find out more about working with language interpreters from the Nova Scotia Coalition on Community Interpreting (www.nscci.ca). 

Lawyers and law students may also want to check out the Cultural Competence materials on the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society's new Resource Portal: Developing an Equity Strategy for your legal workplace.

This article is submitted by Nova Scotia Interpreting Services, and is part of LISNS "In the community" series, highlighting legal help services across Nova Scotia.

December 2015