Did you know that we all have to add a new language to our language combination? And it has to be an active one. We all have to start to learn to speak “Client.”
Let me explain.
One of the biggest problems that everybody tells me about, wherever I go, is that our clients just don’t understand us. They ask us to work under untenable conditions, they don’t give us background materials, and sometimes they even ask us to work from languages that we don’t have!
Well, I want to make a couple of points here.
First of all, of course they don’t understand you! You’re a highly specialized, highly trained professional, who solves highly specific problems. Why would they understand you? Do you understand what your accountant does? Do you understand what your lawyer, or your mechanic, or your plumber do? Of course you don’t. If you did, you’d do it yourself. But they are highly trained as well. So that’s the first point.
The second point is that you need to think about how you prepare for a technical job. You study, you make glossaries, you make lists of terms and their meanings so that you understand what’s going on in the industry. You even learn some jargon, so you can speak their language natively.
Well, that is your job. That’s what we’re paid for. Your lawyer, your accountant, your client, is not paid to study us. They’re not paid to learn our language, to learn our jargon, and to understand what’s going on. They just aren’t. So of course they aren’t going to understand you.
They don’t know the difference between an interpreter, a translator, a spoken translator, a linguist… They don’t know what simultaneous interpreting is, consecutive interpreting, sight translation – “and wait a minute, you just told me you were an interpreter. Why are you sight translating? I don’t get it.”
So what you need to do is learn to speak “Client.”
The first step is to audit all of your communications: take a look at your website, your social media presence, your email signature, your CV. Look at all of those and see where you fall into jargon.
Are you telling people that you have an A, B and C language? Why? They won’t understand. What you need to do is say, for example in my case, “I work from French and Russian into English, and from English into Russian. That way they know very clearly what your languages are, and the directions.
If they ask you what services you provide, and what you can do to help them, turn it around. Don’t just say, “Oh well, I do simultaneous, consecutive, whispering, on-site, remote, whatever…” They don’t know what any of this is.
Turn it around and ask them questions, such as, “Would you prefer to save time, or money? If you prefer to save time, I can set up a team and the equipment, and we will interpret at the same time as your speaker. If you prefer to save money, then I can also set up the team, but there won’t be any extra equipment, and we will speak after the speaker is finished, which means it will take twice as long.”
See how clear that is, and how well your client will understand it? So take a look at all of your communications, and make sure that you are speaking “Client.”
On top of that, make sure to target your client. Because obviously, nothing I just said holds if you’re writing to another interpreter, or to an agency.
But, if you are working with a client who has never used interpreting, who may have used interpreting but is still confused (which is fairly often), then make sure to use this new language of yours, “Client,” and then they can visualize what you want to sell them.
And once they have it in their mind, and they can see it happening, then they can buy it.
Learn how to speak “Client” and watch your prospective clients understand you better.
Julia Poger, member of AIIC
Business Conference and Diplomatic Interpreter