Best practices working with an interpreter

The interpreter is the medium, not the source, of the message.


  • If you feel that you are not getting the type of response you were expecting, restate the question.

Speaking to the person with limited English proficiency (LEP)


  • Speak directly to the person with LEP
  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • Use short sentences and pause between them to allow for interpreting
  • Avoid complicated sentences, sentence fragments, changing your idea in the middle of a sentence, and asking multiple questions at one time.

When listening to the interpreter


  • If the understanding of a response is very important, ask the person to repeat their answer.
  • There should be no back and forth dialogue that the interpreter does not interpret.
  • Be patient. Communicating across a language barrier takes time.

Some concepts have no linguistic equivalent in other languages.


  • Give the interpreter time to restructure information and present it in an appropriate manner. The interpretation often takes longer than your original speech.