The main aspects to consider when choosing an interpreter are experience of the interpreter or organisation offering the service, the notice required and what type of interpretation you are after (face to face or on the telephone).
It can be hard to know where to start when you need an interpreting service. Perhaps the first question to ask would be do they offer the interpretation service in the language you require? It’s worth asking for a company’s references – who else have they worked for? This will give you a good idea of their capabilities, breadth and scope.
Another important aspect to consider is whether the interpreter is going to do face to face work, or are they just required to provide interpretation over the telephone – sitting with a headset on in a booth, for example, providing instant interpretation of a foreign dignitary’s speech at a conference say – or standing next to the speaker. If face to face is required, presentation and social skills move higher up the list of requirements. It’s important for the interpreter to emulate the emphasis, delivery and authority of the speaker, to render the full meaning through the interpretation and ensure there is no ambiguity.
Consider too that interpretation is not just a matter of substituting words in one language for words in another. The interpreter needs to understand the thought expressed in one language and then be able to explain it using the resources and cultural nuances of another language.
This skill is even more relevant if translation, rather than interpreting, is required – say in the translation of a book. It is not enough to be able to literally translate the words; the translator must be able to write well and express themselves clearly, picking up on local dialects, idioms and be fully embedded themselves in the culture of the translated language.
As far as finding good value out of your Chinese interpreter goes, there are many things that you can do. A good starting place is online; you can search an internet search site by typing the phrase “Chinese interpreter”. This will pull up many of the places that offer interpreters; you can view a lot of useful information on individual interpreters, and you can read online reviews of different interpreters written by those who have employed them. Read as many reviews as possible, because many people have different tastes, so what may have been great to one person may have been less than enjoyable for another person. Reading as many of the online reviews as possible will allow you to get a well rounded view on each interpreter and/or interpreter company.