About Team Interpreting

Team interpreting is utilization of two or more interpreters functioning as equal members of a team, rotating responsibilities at pre-arranged intervals, and providing support and feedback to each other. The decision to use a team rather than an individual interpreter generally is based on:

  • length and/or complexity of assignment
  • unique needs of the persons being served
  • dynamics of the setting

*Team interpreting is NOT necessarily based on the number of consumers. For example, if you have one Deaf consumer for an all day training, a team will be required.

The Team Process

All team members are constantly active in the team process. They rotate between primary and support roles. Primary roles are directed to the consumers and include tasks such as signing and voicing. Support roles are necessary to enhance the team’s performance and include:

  • monitoring the overall setting
  • assuring appropriate and timely transitions
  • prompting the primary interpreter

In team interpreting, interpreters rotate at regular intervals, usually 15-20 minutes, while providing continuity in the message transmission. Rotation greatly reduces mental and physical fatigue by allowing a shift of tasks. Continuity is assured as all team members remain present and actively involved, thereby maintaining awareness of the content and context of the information being transmitted.

In some situations, more than one team is required. Factors influencing how many interpreters or teams of interpreters are needed include:

  • size of the audience
  • number of presenters and whether they present individually or as a panel
  • whether the audience members are deaf, hearing, or mixed
  • the degree of audience participation
  • communication preferences of presenters and audience
  • special needs such as tactile, oral and close visual range interpreting

To assure quality service delivery, a team will take sufficient time to decide upon the appropriate placement of primary and support interpreters and their respective functions during the assignment. Arrangement for sound system and other equipment or logistical needs should be made in advance.