Pineapples and Interpreting? 4 Elements of a Great Introduction

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Pineapples have long been a symbol of hospitality and friendship in the Americas. Displaying a pineapple on your table, or incorporating the fruit into decorative elements like carved furniture or linens sent a message to guests of a warm welcome. In fact, it is said that if you were a house guest and the carved wooden pineapples adorning your bedposts suddenly disappeared, it meant that you had overstayed your welcome and was time for you to get packing!

As interpreters, how can we in essence bring a pineapple to our interpreting assignments? That is to say, what can we do to make participants/consumers feel comfortable? How can we establish rapport?

In the first few moments of an encounter, we have the chance to make a powerful introduction that clarifies your role as interpreter and puts the consumer at ease, facilitating smoother and more accurate communication. This is sometimes called the pre-session, the introductions, or the establishment of the contract.

Your introduction to the English speakers should be concise and quick. Participants generally don’t have much time to chat. Depending on the setting you are interpreting in, your introduction may vary.

Consider including the following:

  1. Your name
  2. Your language
  3. Intent to uphold the tenet of Transparency
  4. Request information related to the encounter

When introducing yourself to the Limited English Proficiency person(s), consider a more catered introduction that relieves any reservations they may have. You can build rapport and establish trust, even while taking care to emphasize the limitations of your role.

Try to incorporate these elements:

  1. Your name
  2. Intent to uphold the tenet of Confidentiality
  3. Intent to uphold the tenet of Transparency
  4. Role expectations and limitations that are specific to the encounter

A well-rehearsed introduction will put you at ease, and your confidence and professional yet relatable demeanor will provide the same comfort and trust to all participants. You’ll also have helped yourself by laying the groundwork for maintaining and managing the flow of communication.

6 Comments

  • Carmen says:

    Never heard about pineapples and welcoming. Not in South America.
    Can it be more a regional thing? Warmer climates?
    I agree with the rest. We all have different traditions, values and cultures.
    An Interpreter should be aware of them when interpreting for clients from different regions.

    • Lauren Davis says:

      Great feedback, Carmen!
      I think the pineapple tradition is linked most closely with the US-American south, and throughout parts of Europe where the Pineapple was once a very rare commodity.
      Thanks for your comment. We are always eager to learn more about culture and values.

  • Denisse says:

    Very interesting. Thank you

  • Giovanna Lester says:

    In Brazil specifically, “pineapple” means trouble, difficulties. If you have to handle a difficult situation you have to “peel the pineapple,” when someone drops a hot potato in your hands, you were “left with a pineapple in your hands,” and so on and so forth. In the US South pineapples are a symbol of welcoming – and possibly Hawaii since they produce so much of it.

    Interesting cultural note.

    • Lauren Davis says:

      That’s so interesting! Thanks for commenting, Giovanna! Maybe because of their prickly & spiny skin?

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