If you work for an international charity or with communities in the UK whose first language is not English then you may need to work with translators. Good translation can make or break the quality of story. Here are our tips for getting it right.
- If you can afford to pay a professional translator then this should be your first choice. A professional translator will be experienced in translating word for word and interpreting local idioms so you understand what your interviewee really means.
- If you are using a local colleague to translate make sure they understand they should only translate exactly what they hear. It is common for local programme staff to give long translations when the interviews only gave a short answer. They are filling in the gaps because they want to be helpful but it means you are not hearing it from the interviewee.
- Explain to your translator the key things you need to hear so they know what they are listening out for. Ask them to tell you if the interviewee didn’t quite answer the question.
- Position the translator so they are part of the interview and can build rapport with the interviewee.
- If you are filming the interview make sure the translator knows the interviewee needs to incorporate your question into their answer so it works as a standalone statement. If this doesn’t happen it will be very hard to edit out your questions at the edit stage.