Are you looking into hiring an interpreter for an event?
Updated On: Jul 07, 2020

For referrals to one of our union members, please contact us at local1671[at]gmail.com. 

Interpreters United/AFSCME Council 28 represents spoken language interpreters some of whom also have translator credentials. Many of our members work outside of the social and medical interpreting fields as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do I need an interpreter or a translator?

2. What is language interpreting?

3. How do spoken language interpreters do it?

4. How do interpreters deliver their services?

5. How many types of remote interpreting are there?

6. What delivery modality is appropriate for my event?

7. How many interpreters are needed?

8. What is the average rate of pay for interpreting services?

9. Are there set rates for interpreters contracted through Interpreters United’s referrals?

10. Links to publicly posted information regarding rates for interpreting services

11. What credentials do spoken language interpreters possess?

1. Do I need an interpreter or a translator?

Translators are educated professionals who render source language content from one language into another language in written form. The product is always a written document called translation.

Interpreters are educated professionals who render a spoken or signed message from one language into another spoken or signed language. The product is always a spoken or signed message. To communicate with a deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing person, you can look up sign language interpreters in the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.

If the source content is an audio or audio-visual file, then you will need a transcriber-translator. The product is called a transcription-translation. These specialized interpreters possess translator credentials as well.

2. What is language interpreting?

Interpreting is the process of first fully understanding, then analyzing and processing a spoken or signed message and then faithfully rendering it into another spoken or sign language.

3. How do spoken language interpreters do it?

Whether rendering services in-person or remotely, interpreters work in three modes of interpreting:

  1. Simultaneous – when the interpreter renders a speaker’s message into another language, while they continue to speak.
  2. Consecutive – when the interpreter renders the message into another language after the speaker pauses for the interpreter to render the message in the other language.
  3. Sight Translation – when the interpreter renders a written document directly into a spoken language. This is not for the purposes of producing a written document.

4. How do interpreters deliver their services?

Interpreting services can delivered in the following modalities:

  • In-person interpreting – when interpreters and all those who need language interpreting are in the same physical location.
  • Tele interpreting – when only the interpreter and at least one of those who need language interpreting are in the same physical location. All other participants join the event through audio-only technology (e.g. a telephone) or audio-visual technology (e.g. Skype, video-conferencing, WhatsApp).
  • Remote interpreting – when the interpreter is not at the same location as those who need language interpreting.

5. How many types of remote interpreting are there?

Remote interpreting is provided through the following technologies:

  • Over-the-Phone Interpreting (OPI): This technology only allows interpreting in the consecutive mode though documents may be provided separately by email for sight translation.
  • Video-Remote Interpreting (VRI): This technology only allows interpreting in the consecutive and sight translation modes
  • Remote Simultaneous Interpreting (RSI): This technology allows all three modes (simultaneous, consecutive and sight translation). 

Remote interpreting services can be:

  • Pre-scheduled – when interpreters are scheduled in advance for specific assignments. This allows requesters to choose interpreters based on their credentials and subject matter expertise.
  • On-demand – when interpreters are available 24/7/365 within minutes of placing the request and requesters get the first interpreter available.

6. What delivery modality is appropriate?

On-site interpreting is the default method for best delivery of interpretation services. It is most appropriate for lengthy, complex, sensitive or delicate situations.

Remote interpreting is appropriate when there are no interpreters to render on-site services because the language is of limited diffusion, the participants can’t travel to the location of the even, there is an emergency or it is a last minute request.

7. How many interpreters are needed?

Interpreting is extremely mentally taxing because the interpreter is under pressure to preserve the form and full content of the source language message. Interpreter fatigue—both physical and mental—results from the high degree of concentration an interpreter must employ to hear, analyze, and understand ideas in one language and then render those same ideas coherently in another. This research has demonstrated that accuracy begins to decline within 15 to 30 minutes of simultaneous interpreting, before interpreters are even aware of the fatigue that leads to this increase in errors. After 30 minutes, the decline is precipitous. Therefore, it is imperative that interpreters alternate every 15 to 30 minutes, as agreed upon by team members

In consecutive mode, the interpreter must focus intensely to memorize substantial chunks of information and then render them precisely.

Consecutive mode requires the same amount of cognitive work as simultaneous, but the fatigue occurs over a longer period of time.

To reduce the risk of error resulting from fatigue, it is recommended that:

  • a team of two (2) interpreters must be appointed when it is anticipated that the event will require more than one (1) hour of simultaneous interpreting; and
  • a team of two (2) interpreters must be appointed when it is anticipated that the event will require more than two (2) hours of consecutive interpreting.

8. What is the average rate of pay for interpreting services?

Rates vary greatly depending on language, location, type of event, interpreters’ credential(s), number of interpreters available in a specific language, delivery modality (on-site or remote), etc.

Requesters need to decide whether to pay freelance interpreters:

  • hourly, half-day, or full day, etc.
  • with a minimum (1-minute, 15-minute, 1-hour, 2-hour, etc.)
  • with established increments (1-minute, 15-minutes, etc.)
  • for late cancelations by establishing the reimbursement rate (e.g. 0%, 50%, or 100%)
  • for late cancelations by establishing the time for notification (within 24 hours or 48 hours, etc.)
  • for no shows by establishing the reimbursement rate (e.g. 0%, 50%, 100%)
  • for time scheduled or time actually worked
  • for travel expenses (travel time, mileage reimbursement, tolls, parking, public transportation, etc.)

9. Are there set rates for interpreters contracted through Interpreters United’s referrals?

No. Barring a standing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), antitrust laws prohibit certain agreements among competitors. All of our members should be considered competitors in the context of antitrust challenges, even when their professional practices are not in the same geographic areas, or in the same language combinations or areas of interpreting. The penalties for violations of the antitrust laws can be very severe—not only for our union but also for its individual members. More information can be found on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

10. Links to publicly posted information regarding rates for interpreting services

Washington State

  • Collective Bargaining Agreement for social services and Medicaid appointments is posted on the Office of Financial Management website under Language Access Providers.

https://www.ofm.wa.gov/state-human-resources/labor-relations/collective-bargaining-agreements/language-access-providers-wfse-2019-21

  • Interpreter Payment Policy for the Municipal Courts of King County

http://www.ci.bothell.wa.us/DocumentCenter/View/9358/Payment-Policy-for-the-Municipal-Courts-of-King-County?bidId=

  • Department of Enterprise Services Contract #03514 Interpreter Services Spoken soon to be replaced by #03519. Go to Current Documents and select Pricing and Ordering from the drop down menu.

https://apps.des.wa.gov/DESContracts/Home/ContractSummary/03514

  • Department of Enterprise Services Contract #02819 Spoken Language Interpreter Services Over-the-Phone and Video Remote, Go to Current Documents and select Pricing and Ordering from the drop down menu.

https://apps.des.wa.gov/DESContracts/Home/ContractSummary/02819

Federal

  • Per diem rates for federal contract court interpreters

https://sdnyinterpreters.org/policies/federal/per-diem-interpreter-compensation-rates

  • General Services Administration Interpretation Services

https://www.gsaelibrary.gsa.gov/ElibMain/sinDetails.do?executeQuery=YES&scheduleNumber=00CORP&flag=&filter=&specialItemNumber=382+2

11. What credentials do spoken language interpreters possess?

There is a wide array of spoken language interpreter credentials, which can be very confusing for requesters and interpreters alike. Interpreters’ credentials can be bestowed by government agencies and professional associations. Most credentials must be renewed periodically by complying with continuing education requirements. Certified interpreters have passed an oral exam in at least one mode of interpreting –simultaneous, consecutive or sight. All other categories of interpreters have passed written or oral language proficiency exams but their transfer skills remain untested.

Washington State Government

Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC)

  • State Court Certified interpreters must pass a written exam and then an oral exam in the simultaneous mode (English > Foreign Language), consecutive mode (English <> Foreign Language) and sight translation mode (English <> Foreign Language) mode with a score of 70% or more for each oral exam section.
  • State Court Registered interpreters take the same written exam as court certified interpreters. Registration is reserved for those languages where there is no transfer skills testing. Instead, candidates’ oral language proficiency speaking/listening skills are tested in English and the Foreign Language through an oral proficiency interview. Candidates must receive a score equivalent to ILR Level 3 or more to pass.

AOC certified and registered interpreters must abide by Washington State Supreme Court General Rule 11.2. Their misconduct must be reported back to AOC.

Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)

  • DSHS Medical Certified interpreters are certified by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Candidates must pass a written exam and then an oral exam in the consecutive (English <> Foreign Language) and sight translation modes (English <> Foreign Language). A total equally weighted combined oral score (sight + consecutive = X ÷ 2 = score) of 74.5 or higher is required to pass the test.
  • DSHS Medical Authorized interpreters are certified by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Candidates must pass a written exam similar to the certified one. Authorization is reserved for those languages where there is no interpreting skills testing. Instead, candidates’ oral memory and back translation skills are tested in English and the Foreign Language with a pass or fail score.
  • DSHS Social Services Certified interpreters are certified by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Candidates must pass a written exam and then an oral exam in the simultaneous (English > Foreign Language), consecutive (English <> Foreign Language), and sight translation modes (English <> Foreign Language).
    • Level 1: A total score of 69.5 or higher is required to pass the sight and consecutive modes portions of the test
    • Level 2: A total score of 69.5 or higher is required to pass all portions of the oral test (sight, consecutive and simultaneous modes).
  • DSHS Social Services Authorized interpreters are certified by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Candidates must pass a written exam similar to the certified one. Authorization is reserved for those languages where there is no interpreting skills testing. Instead, candidates’ oral memory and back translation skills are tested in English and the Foreign Language with a pass or fail score.

DSHS certified and authorized interpreters must abide by Washington State Administrative Code 388-03-050. Their misconduct must be reported back to DSHS Language Testing and Certification (DSHS/LTC).

Federal Government

Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC)

  • Federal Court Certified interpreters are certified in Spanish, Navajo and Haitian-Creole. Candidates must pass a written exam and then an oral exam in the simultaneous mode (English > Foreign Language), consecutive mode (English <> Foreign Language) and sight translation mode (English <> Foreign Language).

US Department of State (USDOS)

  • Conference interpreters must pass an oral exam in the simultaneous (English <> Foreign Language) and consecutive modes (English <> Foreign Language).
  • Seminar interpreters must pass an oral exam in the simultaneous (English < Foreign Language) and consecutive modes (English <> Foreign Language).
  • Liaison interpreters must pass an oral exam in the consecutive mode (English <> Foreign Language).

Professional Associations

Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI)

  • CCHI Certified Healthcare Interpreters must pass a written exam and an oral exam in the simultaneous (English > Foreign Language), consecutive (English <> Foreign Language), and sight translation modes (English <> Foreign Language).
  • CCHI Core interpreters have passed the written exam only.

National Board for the Certification of Medical Interpreters (NBCMI)

  • NBCMI Certified Medical Interpreters must pass a written exam and an oral exam in the consecutive (English <> Foreign Language) and sight translation modes (English <> Foreign Language). NBCMI is a division of the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA).

Association Internationale d’Interprètes the Conférences (AIIC)

  • AIIC Active Members have at least 150 days of work overall according to AIIC's rules and regulations and have been sponsored by 3 other AIIC active members who have listened to their work and have at least 5 years seniority in the languages they are sponsoring.

Translator Credentials

Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)

  • DSHS Certified Translators have passed a written translation test that evaluates their transfers skills from English into Spanish, Russian, Korean, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian or Chinese.

American Translators Association (ATA)

  • ATA Certified Translators have passed a written translation test that evaluates their transfers skills from English into about 20 other languages and from these languages into English.

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