Community Interpreter Information

Community Interpreters

We are grateful to you for volunteering to interpret a training class for a Home Care Aide student who has limited English language skills. By offering your time and bilingual skills, you are helping to make this training possible for an interested student to acquire new job skills.

We want to help you prepare for your upcoming experience as a volunteer Community Interpreter so that you are as successful as possible.

Here Are a Few Ways to Practice:

  • Try to interpret a TV show into your non-English language.
  • TV is better than radio, because there is also body language to observe, which you will have in the classroom situation.

What to Expect as a Community Interpreter

Please be on time and do not leave at any time while the class is in progress. You are making a commitment to be there for the student, and they need your help navigating their experience in the classroom.

On the first day of class, please arrive at least 30 minutes early to meet with your instructor and your student to discuss how you will work together most successfully.

If you are unable to make it the day(s) of the class, inform your student as early as possible so that they have a chance to find another interpreter to replace you.

Do not talk or text on the phone during class time unless there is an emergency.

Be respectful of the class instructor and of your student.

Have a positive attitude about the material being presented in the class.

A great way to set yourself up for success as an interpreter is to meet with both the instructor and the student 30 minutes before class starts. Together, you can make a plan for how you will collaborate to best communicate with one another.

  • Agree with the instructor on a signal system that you will use to ask him or her to slow down or to pause when they are speaking too quickly.
  • Do not be afraid to signal the instructor to slow down at an appropriate time if you are having trouble keeping up.

The best spot for you and the student is in the front row, near the middle. This makes it easiest for you and your student to see the screen and the instructor, and to hear him or her clearly.

Your student should be seated at the table, and you should be seated behind and slightly off to one side (not at the table). In this position, both of you will be able to see the instructor and other students when they are speaking.

Speak very closely into one of the student’s ears so that the student can hear you clearly and you avoid distracting other students.

Guide the student to focus their attention on the instructor and to watch the screen when the instructor is showing something. You will remain in the background, behind them but easily heard.

At the very beginning of the class, your instructor will introduce you to the other students and explain the important role that you will play in the class. He or she will talk about how the sound of your interpreting might impact the other students, and how they can help by speaking loudly and clearly, and not engaging in side talk.

Your job is to interpret everything that is said, as it is stated — by the instructor, your student and the rest of the class. For example, when the instructor says, “Class, please open your books,” you should say to your student, “Class, please open your books.” Do not say: “He said: ‘Class, please open your books.’” Translating in this way makes it clear that the communication is between the instructor and your student — not between you and your student.

Tell the student to raise their hand when they want to ask the instructor a question or speak in class. You will interpret everything the student asks or says.

Ask the student, when he or she speaks, to speak with pauses and to use short sentences.

Keep your eyes on the instructor and other speakers; read their body language. You can remind the student to do the same, since they may be able to understand some of the English being spoken.

During breaks, ask your student if they understand what is being interpreted. If they do not, try to make adjustments that will help.

The instructor should either ask other students to speak loudly when they ask a question or automatically repeat questions asked by other students. If this doesn’t happen, feel free to say, “We can’t hear the speaker. Could you please repeat the question?” They should speak slowly and distinctly.

Interpreting in a class setting such as this can be tiring and difficult, especially for long periods of time. The instructor gives shorter, more frequent breaks to reduce the strain of interpreting. Ideally, a second volunteer community interpreter could interpret with you throughout the class. We greatly appreciate your contribution to the learning for your HCA student. Hopefully, these tips will help you be better prepared for the interpretation challenge ahead. We wish you a very successful and rewarding experience interpreting in the classroom.