When you interview someone who speaks a foreign language, you run into a problem unless you are fluent in that same language. The obvious way to correct the situation is to use an interpretor, but this can be tricky. First, you have to find an interpretor who is available for the day on which the interview is planned; then you have to agree on fees.
There are two different kinds of interpretors. The first is the consecutive interpretor, which is the most commonly used for interviews. Using a consecutive interpretor, you will ask the questions, then pause while the interpretor translates your question for your subject (and vice versa for the responses). This is less expensive than the simultaneous interpretor, who relays conversations in real time using electronic equipment.
Using an interpretor for interviews with foreign subjects is much easier than trying to learn the language yourself in a brief amount of time. There are a few drawbacks, such as the inability to relate personally with the subject of your interview, but you can usually get past that with a talented interpretor.
1- Find a Fluent Interpretor
You won’t have as efficient an interview unless you use a fluent interpretor. He or she should be comfortable with translating slang and the various nuances of speech for your benefit. Talk with several different candidates and choose the one with the best credentials, preferably someone who has done many interviews like this one in the past.
2- Prepare Your Interpretor Before the Interview
You can never be too prepared — didn’t your mother teach you that? When using an interpretor for interviews with foreign subjects, you are the only one who benefits from maximum preparation. Talk with your interpretor about the types of questions you intend to ask and give any preferences you might have, such as where you will sit or how long the interview should take. A list of questions is always helpful, but reserve the right to ask questions based on the subject’s previous answers.
3- Record the Interview
You can use one interpretor for interviews with foreign subjects, but have a second one on call to listen to the recorded interview. He or she might pick up on something that the subject says that might give you insight into his or her answers. For example, in politically-motivated interviews, some subjects will take advantage of your interpretor by changing his or her answer until it sounds right. Recording the interview allows you to catch everything that is said.
4- Negotiate Your Prices
If you are working with an interpretor on foreign soil, expect to haggle over the price. Some interpretors will charge $500 per day for interviews with foreign subjects, but can be talked down to as low as $150 per day. Never take a quote at face value and make sure that you use your interpretor for the time during which you are paying him or her. And if you feel that he or she has done an extraordinary job (i.e. tried to make the process easier), you can offer a tip as a thank-you.