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2000 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 4, No. 1
February 1999

Guidelines for Working with an Interpreter

Given the increase of the Latino population in North Carolina, you probably work with individuals who do not speak English. If you bring in a translator, the following guidelines are suggested:

  • Introduce yourself and the interpreter to your client(s). Describe the role each of you will serve.

  • Learn basic words and phrases in the family's language.

  • Avoid body language that could be misunderstood.

  • Speak directly to the family and not the interpreter. Look at and listen to family members as they speak.

  • Use a positive tone of voice and facial expressions. Be sincere and talk to them in a calm manner.

  • Limit your remarks and questions to a few sentences between translations.

  • Avoid using slang words or jargon.

  • From time to time, check on the family's understanding of what you have been talking about by asking them to repeat it back to you. Avoid asking, "Do you understand?"

  • Whenever possible, use materials printed in the family's language.


Lynch. E. (1992). From culture shock to cultural learning. In E. W. Lynch and M. J. Hanson (Eds.), Developing Cross-Cultural Competence: A Guide for Working with Young Children and Their Families. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co., 35-62.

1999 Jordan Institute for Families