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How to use interpreters for export

It can be difficult to find exactly what you want. This article is here to help you work out if you need an interpreter and how get the best out of them.

Suppose you are new to exporting or you are considering an approach to a new market. When might you need the services of an interpreter? How do you find a good one, and what should you do to make sure you get the best from them? This article is here to help you work out if you need an interpreter and how get the best out of them.

Why use an interpreter?

It is a common misconception that everyone basically speaks English. The fact is they don’t.

If you are looking for agents, distributors or partners to sell your services or products abroad, do not make the mistake of going with someone just because they speak good English. They may seem plausible, but lack the contacts and knowledge which are vital for long-term market success. Your ideal agent, distributor or partner may not speak much English at all and would be difficult to find without a good interpreter to help you.

Equally, for visits abroad looking for new clients, including meetings arranged through other contacts or perhaps attending trade fairs or conferences, engaging the services of an interpreter can make all the difference. They can help you not only to communicate effectively but also to understand what is going on around you to ensure that you aren’t missing anything.

How to find a good interpreter

A good interpreter can make all the difference between success and failure in tackling a new market, so it is well worthwhile thinking through what you are looking for.

Let’s take an example. Suppose you are a producer of high quality, animal-friendly cosmetic products and you believe Germany could be a promising new market for your products. Ideally, your interpreter will:

  • Have a sufficient knowledge of the cosmetics industry and will be able to understand how your product works and any associated benefits
  • Know the relevant related vocabulary in both English and German
  • Have a good general knowledge of business, including presenting, negotiating and selling, to be able to help you conclude any deal
  • Be personable and presentable, as well as punctual and conscientious as they will be acting on behalf of your business after all.

You might have a German friend who offers to help you or know someone who speaks a bit of German but we would strongly advise that you do not go with them just because they seem an easy option. Always engage a professional.

Go to a reputable company, explain your requirements (see above bulleted list) in detail and make sure that you don’t leave it to the last minute. Good interpreters are highly skilled professionals in great demand so if you want one of the best, start early – preferably at least a month before your trip. When you start shipping large orders of mascara all around Germany, you will see that it was the best investment you ever made.

How to get the best from your interpreter

They are highly skilled professionals so brief them as fully as possible. They will respond by taking a real interest in your products or services and helping you to promote them in their language with as much conviction as you would in English. If you treat them as valuable partners, that is exactly what they will be.


If you think you may need an interpreter, please do get in touch. We would be happy to provide a quotation, or just advise you further about how to find what you are looking for.

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