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Talking language

Using an interpreter

If a family chooses a formal interpreting service, the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) is an interpreting service provided by the Department of Home Affairs for people who do not speak English and for agencies and businesses that need to communicate with their non-English speaking clients.

The Queensland Government’s Language Services Guidelines (2016:4-5) provides the following guidance about use of interpreters:

Why engage qualified interpreters

Using qualified interpreters means that the level of skill and quality of the interpreting meets certain standards.

Qualified interpreters are also required to maintain confidentiality, impartiality and accuracy as part of the AUSIT (the national independent association for the translating and interpreting profession) or ASLIA (national peak organisation representing Auslan/English interpreters and Deaf Interpreters) codes of ethics.

Role of an interpreter

The interpreter’s role is to assist with communication between you and the client. (The guidelines use the term ‘customer’).

Some interpreters develop specialist skills to work in particular fields, such as court interpreting and health services. That way they are more familiar with the terminology used in these contexts.

It is not the interpreter’s role to provide explanations or answer questions from the client.

Assessing the need for an interpreter

Agencies should provide an interpreter in [all] situations where a person has difficulty communicating in English.

Practice prompt

The ability to converse in English does not necessarily indicate that a person comprehends the level of English spoken by doctors, nurses, magistrates, lawyers, police officers and others, or that the person understands written English. If there is any doubt about a person’s ability to communicate in or comprehend English, an interpreter should be engaged.

Further reading

See the Queensland Language Service Guidelines for further information.

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