Preparing to Interpret at Work

preparation sheet

A couple of months ago I was teaching a student at a company class in Tokyo. “Can you help me prepare for a meeting tomorrow, please?” she asked.

Her company had arranged a meeting with a machine salesman from Korea who spoke no Japanese. My student, an intermediate speaker of English – the best in her company, spoke no Korean. Luckily, they both spoke English.

“My problem is, I don’t know where to start,” she explained. The free checklist and preparation sheet at the bottom of this post can help you. First, continue reading.

Go to their company website

Go to the website of the person or people you are going to meet. Go to the English section if they have one. If not, use Google Translate to translate the pages if they are in a language you don’t understand (If you use Google Chrome, you may not need to do this because it might ask you to translate the site). Write down the key information you need. Write down new words or terms that may be useful. You might want to write these on word cards for later study.

Find out specialist and technical terms

Write down any specialist technical terms and data, including units from their website, brochures, catalogues or from your own technical specifications. If there is more than one possible unit to measure in, write down a conversion formula. e.g. Fahrenheit to Celsius is C = F-32*(5/9) F= C + 32*(9/5).

Ask your co-workers what they want to ask the visitor

Ask your co-workers to give you any questions they want to ask the visitor. This will give you time to translate them in time for the meeting.

Think of questions your visitor may want to ask your company

This means that you can find the answer quickly and have a translation ready in plenty of time.

Make a list of things that you need to take to the meeting

To avoid more stress, make a list of things you need to take to the meeting. If you have no whiteboard pens or even a notebook, this can make you panic. Try to relax by preparing in advance. Here is a free checklist (PDF) to help you.

Good luck!