Why not to use employees as translators or interpreters

March 4, 2024
Adam Sedia

Keeping costs low is important to ensure any organizations viability, be it a business or a nonprofit. Organizations therefore look to cut costs whenever possible, removing any extra “frills” deemed unnecessary. Language services, especially interpretation for non-English speakers, is often viewed as such a “frill,” and the organization will recruit bilingual employees to double as interpreters when cross-language communication is needed.


But this is a bad idea for several reasons.


First, the quality of the interpretation services is not guaranteed. The employee recruited to double as a makeshift interpreter was not hired as an interpreter and in all likelihood was not trained as an interpreter. The makeshift interpreter will likely be using the “street” version of the language in what will in all likelihood be a business meeting with a business vocabulary and a context that demands proper grammar and usage.


Related to this issue, “language interpretation” was likely never part of the employee’s job description and was not something they expected to do when they took the job for the rate of pay offered. Unionized employees or employees in states with strict labor laws can have a grievance against their employer if they are made to serve as interpreters when they were not hired for their actual position within the organization. What could have been a measure intended to cut costs can actually end up costing the organization much more in the end.


And on the topic of liability, the most serious concern that using employees as makeshift interpreters invokes is confidentiality. Often meetings within an organization that require language interpretation are sensitive matters, such as harassment and discrimination investigations, internal investigations or audits, or witness preparation related to a lawsuit. Recruiting another employee to interpret for a colleague by its nature divulges sensitive matters in-house, and can give rise to embarrassing situations among coworkers and perhaps even a lawsuit by the interpretee employee for disclosure of private facts. 


Using a professional translation or interpretation service eliminates all of these concerns. The professional translator or interpreter is trained and certified as an interpreter, and will provide the most correct and accurate relaying of the message between the two languages. That is their job, what they are trained to do and what they do best. But the professional is also an outsider, with no vested interest in the matters they are interpreting, ensuring an unbiased and accurate interpretation. Furthermore, their confidentiality is contractually assured, ensuring that sensitive information remains protected.


In the end, the price of professional translation and interpretation services is well worth the benefit it provides as well as the potential headaches it eliminates.

Unida Translation is a leader in the translation industry. We help all businesses open up the avenues of communication by ensuring that your organization’s messages are understood in the exact same manner no matter who the audience is. Our company provides outstanding translation services that cover over 125 languages for documents, remotely and in person. What makes Unida Translation different and the best choice for all of your translator-related needs is that our translators and interpreters are certified by a recognized translator and interpreter association. Our organization is also licensed, insured and the only translation company truly located in Northwest Indiana.

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