Finding a good interpreter is crucial to providing foreign customers with services such as equipment-orientation seminars. Marty McCann, an audio engineer for Peavey Electronics, a guitar and sound-system company employing approximately 2,200 people in the United States, has traveled the globe for more than 10 years teaching sound professionals and music distributors. Here are McCann's pointers for finding the right interpreter for your specific needs:

  1. Make sure an interpreter knows the vocabulary for your specific product. "Once I had an interpreter who was in tears in front of a class because she didn't have a background in audio engineering." Just in case, have a local management person on hand to assist. "Host-country techies may not be as fluent in English, but they have more insight into the material."
  2. Get someone who's persnickety. "It's a good sign if your interpreter stops and asks you to clarify things before continuing." Have dinner with your interpreter the day before the presentation to familiarize him or her with your speech and mannerisms.
  3. Instruct the interpreter to focus on your material and not the language itself. "One interpreter I used, an English teacher, was trying to make my speech grammatically correct rather than communicate the material--and she was telling me how to correct my English!"
  4. Use your local contacts and distributors as leads for qualified interpreters. Sometimes they can tap a customer who speaks English well. McCann's company tries to find someone already fluent with the vocabulary and interested in the product, with whom it may also strike a barter arrangement for services.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing