Translating and Interpreting Services

People with low levels of English language ability face linguistic and cultural barriers to appropriate health, legal, or community services. Due to a lack of awareness, these same barriers may also prevent service providers from delivering quality services to all clients.

The use of interpreters ensure that clients get the information that they need to ensure that they understand their rights within different institutional settings and make informed health care or legal decisions. The use of an interpreter offers service providers the ability to deliver quality, equitable care to all their clients.

The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) is part of the Australian Government, Department of Home Affairs.

TIS National provides language services for people who do not speak English and for agencies and businesses that need to communicate with their non-English speaking clients.

What does TIS do?

  • an immediate phone interpreting service 24 hours a day, every day of the year
  • free interpreting services to non-English speakers
  • free interpreting services to eligible agency clients
  • a range of interpreting service options to meet your needs

The National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters is responsible for setting, maintaining and promoting high professional standards for the Translating and Interpreting industry.

Why you should use NAATI accredited interpreters:

  • to ensure accurate communication while taking into account cultural sensitivities
  • in times of crisis, traumatic or emotionally-charged situations, second-language competency may decrease dramatically
  • because qualified interpreters are bound to practice impartiality, confidentially and accurately when interpreting

Issues when using a non-accredited interpreter:

  • they may not have the required language skills and knowledge
  • they are not bound by the AUSIT Code of Ethics

Issues when using friends, relatives or children as interpreters:

  • the language skills of friends, relatives and children are unknown, untested and possibly unreliable as they may become too emotionally involved
  • there is no guarantee that the relatives or friends will not have vested interests and will not seek to exploit the situation
  • a child should not be put in a position of having to take responsibility for the outcome if a mistake is made

Issues when using bilingual staff as an interpreter:

  • bilingual staff are not bound by the Code of Ethics
  • they may not keep information confidential
  • the language skills are unknown and untested

Interview techniques:

  • speak in 1st person directly and clearly to the non-English speaking client
  • use simple language
  • check for understanding
  • be aware of possible cultural differences in body language
  • allow plenty of time to conduct the interview/conversation
  • ensure everyone can hear clearly

Multicultural Language Services Guidelines for Tasmanian Government Agencies | Developed by Tasmania State Government$stream

A Guide to Working with Interpreters in Schools | Developed by Victoria State Government
Scenarios highlight common pitfalls and effective strategies when working with interpreters:

Guidelines for Working Effectively with Interpreters in Mental Health Settings | Developed by Victorian Transcultural Psychiatry Unit (VTPU):