When to use an Aboriginal interpreter

Assess their communication

Use the table below to assess a person's communication skills in English.

If two or more of the points in the ‘likely to need an interpreter’ column apply to the person, you should organise an interpreter.

Response Likely to need an interpreter Less likely to need an interpreter

Articulating back

The person has difficulty articulating back what you said to them.

The person is able to articulate meaningfully most of what you said to them, using their own words.

Short or long answers

The person only speaks in short sentences of four to five words. Or they mainly give one-word answers.

The person speaks in full sentences of six or seven words or more, and elaborate answers to questions.

Agrees or disagrees

The person consistently agrees with your questions or propositions you put to them.

The person is easily able to disagree and articulate a different point of view.

Inappropriate responses

The person frequently responds inappropriately to your comments or question, for example, responding with “yes” to what or where questions.

The person consistently responds meaningfully and appropriately to questions and comments.

Unsure of meaning

You are sometimes mystified as to what exactly your client is telling you even when the words and grammar they are using are clear to you.

You can process the person’s speech clearly and understand what it is they are telling you.


The person appears to contradict themselves, and is unaware of the apparent contradictions.

The person does not contradict themselves, or if they do, they are aware of and can address the contradiction.

Uses new vocabulary

The person does not add significant amounts of new vocabulary to the conversation. They rely on using the words or phrases that you have previously said to them.

The person frequently adds new vocabulary to the conversation.

Good grammar

The person does not use English grammatically, for example, mixes up pronouns (“he” instead of “she”); uses the past tense incorrectly (“He look at me”).

The person uses English grammatically.

Repeating and simplifying

You find yourself frequently needing to restate and simplify your utterances.

You can talk easily in a normal manner.

If you have any doubts call the Aboriginal Interpreter Service on (08) 8999 8353 .

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Last updated: 08 January 2016

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