Carnaby Street London

Is it really necessary to get an interpreter? When it is and when it isn’t

Whether you need an interpreter or not depends entirely on your goals, expectations, and command of the foreign language. Obviously, it also depends on how important getting your message across -or understanding the other person’s message- accurately and smoothly is to you.

Surely, with a big smile and some good will you can travel, eat, and shop abroad – and have loads of fun. However, that is not the same as understanding clearly what is being discussed in, for example, a breakfast meeting. A qualified, professional interpreter can make all linguistic barriers vanish and also help you tackle any cultural ones.

There are many different ways an interpreter can be of assistance to you. Here are some examples:

When it is and when it isn’t.

I like to think that interpreters are very useful creatures – but then I am an interpreter. All personal opinions aside, interpreters are indeed very useful creatures, when used at the right moment and in the right situation.

Let’s analyse together some of the most common scenarios interpreters are asked to work in.

1- Is it necessary to hire an interpreter to walk around town and go sightseeing or shopping?

Certainly not and especially not in a cosmopolitan and multicultural city like London where you can find someone who speaks your language around almost every corner. You may benefit from hiring a tour guide or a personal shopper, though. They surely know the city by heart and can take you wherever you wish or to places you didn’t even know were there.

2- How about when visiting the doctor or talking to the police?

Some people are under the impression that a friend or a relative can interpret for them during a doctor’s visit with the accuracy and objectivity of a professional. Allow me to differ – a friend is a friend, a relative is a relative, and a professional is a professional. Public Services Interpreters bring more to the table than just their technical and lexical skills. They are trained in cultural awareness and situation management, among other skills. Besides, just as when faced with a “s/he says that…” any self-respecting lawyer would shout “Objection, hearsay” at the top of his or her lungs, so would I and so should the doctor and the patient and police officer and the accused, unless they want to be diagnosed and sentenced based on what someone else thought they were saying.

3- Should you get an interpreter for your multilingual and multicultural meeting, presentation, conference or event?

Well, most definitely, if you want it to be a success and wish to keep all parties involved in the loop. These are the instances when adding a professional Corporate, Diplomatic or Conference Interpreter who is the right fit to your team can make all the difference and keep your event running smoothly, as if language barriers and cultural differences didn’t exist and magic were being made in the room.

To sum up

  • Is it always necessary to hire an interpreter?


  • Are all interpreters the same and able to interpret in all situations?

Not necessarily.

  • Can a non-professional interpreter make things go awry?

Most likely, yes.

  • Would a professional interpreter who’s the right fit bring things to safe port?

99.9% chances are they will.

  • Would an interpreter decline work they’re not prepared to do?

If they’re pros, they should.

  • How do I know whom to hire or even if I should hire anyone?

Ask! Or keep reading MCL Blog.

“Interpreting has little to do with transferring words to another language. It is about accurately capturing messages.” ~ Harry Obst

Photo by MCL – Carnaby Street dressed up for Christmas in its usual funky style.

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