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Top 8 Questions to Ask in an RFP for Interpretation Services

Interpretation is a critical function in a wide variety of settings, such as  healthcare, legal proceedings, business and international trade, government and public services, and education and schools. If your company holds meetings or events with speakers of multiple languages, serves multilingual customers in office settings, is expanding into a new country, or forging international partnerships, it may be time to start looking for a reliable interpretation services provider.

However, choosing the best solution for your company requires you to dig into specifics. The truth is that many interpretation services providers sound the same online. Before putting together a request for proposal (RFP), it’s important to identify your organization’s distinct interpretation requirements. Only then can you draft RFP questions to identify the provider that most closely fits your unique needs. 

In this article, we’ll explore some key questions to ask that will help you make a well informed choice. You can begin by using these to guide your internal needs assessment. When that’s complete, you can then tailor your RFP process to most effectively determine each vendor’s capability to address your priorities.


Here are 8 Key RFP Questions You Should Always Ask in an Interpretations RFP


1. What types of interpretation services do you provide?

Identify the specific mode of interpretation that your organization needs. Interpreting services can be in person, over the phone or over live video feed, and interpretation can be delivered consecutively (repeating the speaker’s words in another language as the speaker pauses) or simultaneously (relaying communication in real time). Consider the number of parties involved in the communications and the settings in which they occur to answer the following questions:

  • Do you need on-site or remote interpretation?
  • If you need remote services, do you need audio only or video as well? 
  • Do you need interpretation of one-on-one conversations, small group discussions, meetings, or public addresses? Each of these calls for a specific type of interpretation.

     If you need in-person interpreting, these needs might occur at a single location or at various sites around the globe. With a detailed understanding of the types of services you need, you can draft RFP questions to find companies that can deliver. 


2. What languages do you cover?

Identify the languages for which you currently need interpretation–both near term and in the future. Consider all of your multilingual events, meetings, or sessions and what languages the attendees would speak. Even if you only need interpretation for a couple of widely spoken languages at the moment, you don’t want to have to go through the RFP process all over again a few years down the road. An effective process can help you identify the best long-term language partner.

3. In what industries do you specialize?

Interpretation providers often develop extensive experience in specific industries and can provide specialized services in those industries. If you need interpretation of highly technical or specialized language, then you might want to seek out a specialist in your industry. For example, both the legal and healthcare industries use language that can be difficult for people outside the industry to understand, and both must strictly protect privacy in their communications. Interpreters for organizations in industries like these must understand their distinctive technical language and be able to convey it accurately, making sure communication is clear among all parties. They must also ensure their security practices protect data privacy for remote interpreted conversations. Errors in either of these areas could have grave consequences.


4. What qualifications and certifications do your interpreters have?

It’s important to verify that a provider’s interpreters are certified and experienced in the type of interpretation you need. Various certifications are available for specific fields, including medical, court, community, ASL interpretation, and more. While certifications aren’t always necessary, experience counts. Experienced interpreters have had the opportunity to develop their skills and understand linguistic or cultural nuances that help make sure communication is effective.     

Tailor your questions to make sure each provider addresses the qualifications you’re looking for. For example, you might ask, 

  • Which of the following certifications do your interpreters possess? (check all that apply)
  • What is the minimum amount of experience you require for simultaneous interpreters?
  • What are the minimum educational requirements for your interpreters?
  • Do you require your interpreters to undergo background checks?


5. How do you ensure quality?

Great interpreters are not only fluent in the languages they use but also have the benefit of industry experience, cultural awareness, and the social skills needed to effectively bridge divides in understanding. Find out how a potential interpretation provider would ensure quality in all these aspects of interpretation. Ask about quality control measures like training, monitoring and assessing performance, and feedback mechanisms. Also find out what kind of ongoing education and support they provide for their interpreters to ensure they stay up to date on industry best practices.


6. What technology do you use for remote interpretation?

If you need remote interpreting services, find out what software and platforms each company uses. You’ll want to know that conversations will happen reliably and securely. Investigate the technology that a potential language partner uses so you understand its reputation for security, user friendliness, and uninterrupted service. If sensitive information will be involved, ask specific questions about the data security and confidentiality protocols the provider uses.


7. When are interpreters available?

It’s critical to identify vendors who will be there when you need them, particularly if you’ll need interpretation services outside of regular business hours or with little advance notice. Find out if there are any times when interpreters will be unavailable, how much notice is needed to schedule the specific services you need, and what (if any) processes they have in place for last-minute requests. Also, find out what they will do if you experience technical issues that interfere with remote interpretation or if a scheduled interpreter becomes unavailable.


8. What do the services cost?

Ask about providers’ pricing structures, requesting a clear breakdown of all charges. Find out if any additional fees may apply, such as for travel, equipment, or overtime. If you need a customized interpretation solution, determine the vendors’ ability to customize their services to fit your requirements and the costs associated with doing so.


Streamlining the Interpretations RFP Process

To make the RFP process as efficient as possible, we recommend you create an Excel file and fill it in with basic information that you can glean about your shortlisted vendors from their websites and other materials you may have access to. For example, a vendor might advertise the number of languages they interpret and the types of interpretation services they provide. This will save time by avoiding the need to ask questions that have readily available answers. When drafting your RFP questions, craft them to elicit detailed answers rather than yes/no or other single-word replies. Use verbs like describe, detail, and explain in your questions and ask what, when, where, and how they can serve your needs.

Language Network provides interpretation in more than 200 languages, and our remote video and over-the-phone interpreting services can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Learn more about our interpreting services on our website, or browse our blog for more insight into interpretation and translation services.

About Language Network

Language Network is a language solutions company specializing in interpretation, translation, and localization services for government, healthcare, and international businesses. Language Network provides critical language access and support in over 200 languages. For more information, visit www.languagenetworkusa.com.

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