A businessman works with a professional interpreter to speak with a client.

The Unique Roles of Professional Interpreters, Google Translate, and Ad Hoc Interpreters

Although communication barriers have always existed, the modern, interconnected technological landscape has made it easier for us to connect. When two people who do not speak the same language are trying to connect, interpreters and translation tools help facilitate understanding between the parties by converting spoken and written messages accurately from one language to another.

However, not all language solutions are equal. Professional human interpreters, free machine translation tools like Google Translate, and ad hoc interpreters play distinct roles based on their capabilities. Let’s take a look at the unique benefits and appropriate uses of each.

The Role of Professional Interpreters

Professional interpreters are highly skilled and qualified and have expertise in fields like medical, legal, education, finance, and community settings. Their role is to facilitate accurate, meaningful communication between two people who don’t speak the same language.

Extensive Training and Certification

Interpreting is a skilled-based profession, and many interpreters undertake rigorous training on things like memory strengthening, note-taking, ethics, cultural competency, and speech delivery. Many hold certifications through national organizations like the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) and the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI).

Code of Ethics and Standards

Professional associations, like the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA) or the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC), provide a code of ethics for medical interpreters on topics that cover confidentiality, accuracy, professional boundaries, and impartiality.

Niche Expertise

On-demand interpreters gain expertise in areas like healthcare, law, and finance through years of experience and practice. This allows them to interpret complex terminology precisely.

Vital for High-Stakes Situations

Professional interpreters should be used for any language-discordant scenario, but especially where accuracy is crucial, like medical exams, legal proceedings, and business negotiations.

Enable Clear Communication

By converting messages precisely between speakers, professional interpretation services enable understanding and prevent serious miscommunications that could jeopardize trust or cause serious harm.

The Role of Google Translate

Google Translate is a free web-based machine translation tool accessible to anyone. It provides fast, casual translations. Google Translate is:

  • Convenient and accessible: Users simply enter text or web links and can quickly get rough translations for over 100 languages. Its ease of access online makes it convenient.
  • Quick, but sometimes flawed: While fast, Google Translate often misses subtleties in language and culture. The raw machine output frequently contains significant errors, making it suitable only for informal use.
  • Helpful for basic tasks: Translate works reasonably well for tourist activities like reading menus and road signs when high quality is not critical. Google Translate can suffice for simple, informal conversations.
  • Unsuitable for anything official or complex: For important documents, contexts like healthcare and law, and communicating about sensitive topics, Google Translate is highly risky due to potential errors and lack of interpretations with depth.

The Informal Role of Ad Hoc Interpreters

Ad hoc interpreters are bilingual individuals without formal interpreter training who are asked to interpret conversations for friends, family members, or customers. Ad hoc interpreters should only be used in casual settings. This is why:

  • Having a bilingual person interpret can seem convenient for businesses or families; however, their interpreting skills likely differ greatly from professionals who usually have years of experience in their field and familiarity with interpreter protocols and industry terminology.
  • Ad hoc interpreters rarely have official training or evaluation. This increases the chances of interpretation errors and misunderstandings.
  • Legally binding agreements, complex subjects like finances and healthcare, and sensitive matters should always be handled by vetted professionals, never ad hoc interpreters.

Get On-Demand Interpreting from CLI

Why Professional Interpreters Are Critical

Professional interpreters usually undergo training to accurately facilitate communication. They pay attention to the cultural and contextual nuances of each scenario, including tone and emotions. Skilled interpreters also follow protocols that ad hoc interpreters don’t know or technology doesn’t follow, like seeking clarification, maintaining neutrality, and being mindful of personal boundaries. 

Look to Certified Languages International for Professional Interpreting

If you’re looking for professional interpretation and translation services, look to CLI. Our team of experienced interpreters speak over 230 languages and are ready to help with your language needs. We understand that teams and businesses need many services, so we offer over-the-phone interpretation, document translation, and video remote interpretation. 

With industry expertise in healthcare, finance, insurance, education, and more, our well-rounded team is here to help. Request a quote today or learn more about our language services.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is it okay to use Google Translate vs. a human?

Google Translate is suitable for informal personal communication and basic travel scenarios. Professional human interpreters should always be used for medical, legal, financial, and personal contexts where accuracy and nuance are imperative.

What is the difference between translators and interpreters?

Translators work with written text, while interpreters convert spoken language. Interpreting involves real-time conversion from one language to another.

How can I work with professional interpreters?

Contact reputable interpretation agencies to work with qualified interpreters. Contact CLI for a quote today.