Why Emotional Intelligence Matters in Interpreting

by | Jul 16, 2021

Interpreters are there to help people that don’t speak the same languages communicate with each other. But aside from just translating between source and target languages, interpreters also have to interpret human behavior and emotions, not just spoken words. And this is where emotional intelligence comes into play.


What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence refers to a person’s ability to identify and express their own emotions and also understand and influence the emotions of others. It can be especially useful in stressful situations where understanding emotions can mean the difference between success and failure.

Many interpreting sessions like business environments won’t depend on emotional intelligence. But even in situations where emotions don’t seem to have an impact on the conversation, emotional intelligence can still help both parties reach the desired outcome.


Why Interpreters Need Emotional Intelligence

They Deal with Emotionally Sensitive Topics

Even if you speak the same language as your patient or client, it can be challenging to discuss an emotionally sensitive topic. When you add multiple languages to the mix, the stakes become much higher, and so do the chances of miscommunication.

Legal interpreters might need to assist trauma victims in recounting events to lawyers or judges. Medical interpreters have to inform patients about life-threatening conditions. Interpreters cannot remain calm in the face of a stressful situation if they don’t have emotional intelligence.


They Work with Linguistic Nuances and Cultural Sensitivities

As mentioned earlier, not all interpreting sessions are centered around emotionally sensitive topics that require emotional intelligence. But emotional intelligence can also help navigate cultural nuances and sensitivities.

Interpreters must be able to adapt to the formality of specific languages and settings so they don’t offend anyone, and this is where they need to deploy their emotional intelligence.


They Have to Use the Right Body Language

Language interpretation can be facilitated in-person, via video, or over the phone. Whenever in-person interpreting or VRI is used, the interpreter needs to showcase active and engaged body language to demonstrate that they’re listening carefully to both parties to help them understand each other.

Things like eye contact and other signs of understanding, listening, and empathy also need to come into play, but these skills are deployed when interpreters use their emotional intelligence to gauge the conversation.


They Must Make Clients Feel at Ease

Emotionally intelligent interpreters can build a relationship of trust with their clients, and the more comfortable a client feels with an interpreter, the easier they’ll share information.


Final Thoughts

Interpreting requires emotional skills to be used on top of source and target language competence and cultural competence. The working life of interpreters necessitates the ability to adapt to the environment, to have good customer relations, and to foster clear communication with people.

At Day Interpreting, our team of professional interpreters has high levels of emotional intelligence to ensure they can deal with sensitive topics, work around cultural nuances and sensitivities, and use the correct body language to make the client feel at ease.

If you need professional interpreting services, get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help you bridge the language gap!


Seldean Smith
Seldean Smith

Seldean is a multi-skilled content wizard that dedicates herself to writing content that goes beyond merely sparking interest in the audience.

Seldean Smith

Seldean is a multi-skilled content wizard that dedicates herself to writing content that goes beyond merely sparking interest in the audience.

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