If it is clear an interpreter is required, then it is strongly recommended that a professional interpreter be used. Using a bilingual person who is untrained in interpreting may risk compromising accuracy, neutrality and confidentiality.
Although relatives, friends and neighbours can be capable interpreters they may take on an advocacy role rather than the neutrality of a professional interpreter. Keep in mind that the client may not be happy to disclose all information with a person they know present.
Clients often bring children to interpret - this creates a risk for incorrect information and inappropriate use of a minor.
Hear from State Services Commissioner, Iain Rennie
Using a professional interpreter is particularly important when communicating with people with little or no English language in the following situations:
The agency requires compliance.
Explaining clients’ rights and obligations.
In times of stress.
The information to be discussed is complex and detailed.
Hear from a former child interpreter
Language Line Interpreters
Language Line uses professional qualified interpreters who are committed to a code of ethics and hold police clearances in their country of residence.
It is important to provide a Language Line interpreter when:
A non-English speaker indicates that an interpreter is needed.
The person does not appear to understand what you have said.
The person cannot communicate fluently with you in English.
In some cultures, it may be polite to say “yes” even if the question is not understood.
Legal basis for interpreting
In New Zealand, every individual has the legal right to an interpreter when dealing with the law, with health service providers or during elections, in keeping with Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
‘Interpreting in New Zealand: Let's keep talking - guidelines for agencies using interpreters is a booklet for officials is available from Language.Line@dia.govt.nz