Interpreters require a high level of linguistic skills in both the source and target languages. They should have a deeper knowledge of target cultures in order to properly convert the spoken language within a limited time in the presence of people in a conference or meeting. Interpreters typically specialize in a language pair as well as in a specific subject matter such as technology, science, health, law or commerce.
Requirements to Become an Interpreter
It is not enough for a person to be fluent in a second language to become an interpreter. An interpreter needs the following:
- Very good command of English or the person's native language
- Fluency in another language
- Research skills and initiative
- Very good memory
- Excellent concentration skills
- Ability to maintain confidentiality
- Acceptance and understanding of other cultures
Qualities of an Interpreter
Interpreting work is very demanding but rewarding as you ensure that people understand one another. To be a good interpreter, a person should possess some characteristics that will help him or her do the job properly. Thus, aside from a good grasp of the language, a good interpreter should possess the following qualities.
- Be a very good listener. Interpreters should have impeccable hearing. Interpreters must be able to pick up every intent, meaning and every word spoken. A good interpreter makes sense of the message given in another language and constructing and articulating the message simultaneously in the target language.
- Have excellent cognitive, sensory and motor skills. A good interpreter depends on these skills to work harmoniously to make sure that the language, along with its idioms and nuances are picked up and relayed in a manner that is very understandable in the time that is allowed.
- Have an extensive vocabulary of the language pair. Since interpreting work is often done in real time, the interpreter does not have the time to consult a reference material or a dictionary. Thus it is important for an interpreter to have an in-depth knowledge of the subject matter and the language, including the jargon or abbreviations related to the topic.
- Must have cultural awareness. The knowledge of an interpreter in a subject matter should be in the level of specialist. However, the interpreter must likewise be aware of the cultures of the source and target languages. This is especially important as speakers might make social, political, religious or cultural references that the interpreter must translate into an acceptable statement that the listeners can easily comprehend.
- Ability to exercise self-control and cope with stress. Aside from the stress the interpreter goes through while interpreting, there is additional stress when interpreters have to deal with speakers who are difficult to some extent. Difficult here pertains to speakers who do not speak with clarity and precision. Other speakers have thick accents that are difficult to comprehend. Therefore, interpreters should be able to remain cool and relaxed to understand the speaker better.
- Be emotionally resilient. There are instances when interpreters are involved in situations that are hard to witness. This is especially true for medical and legal interpreting work where the interpreter has to witness deaths, emergency medical situations and murder trials. These scenarios do not happen often, but when they do, interpreters must display high levels of control and resiliency with the people they are interpreting for.
The characteristics of a good interpreter and the requirements above are meant for people who are already engaged in interpreting work. If you are interested in the job and you have what it takes to work as an interpreter, you need the right education and training to prepare for it.
Interpreter Education and Training
It is undeniable that to be a good interpreter, you should have excellent skills in your native language as well as another language. An interpreter often interprets in his or her native language and have excellent understanding and fluency in another language. For example, if you are an English speaker, then you should interpret in that language and learn another Western or Asian language to make a language pair.
Here are the things you should do to become an interpreter.
1. Earn a bachelor's degree
You need a Bachelor's Degree is you want to become an interpreter. While it is not required to have a major in a foreign language, it is a good option to consider, especially if you want to concentrate in specific fields. But consider this: you need to be fluent in two languages at the end of your college course.
It is essential to gain first-hand experience, so look for opportunities for volunteer work, in companies, organizations or hospitals. The experience will not only hone your interpreting skills but also beef up your resume.
If you have the chance, it is also good to spend some time abroad. Check if your school offers study abroad programs. It's a good way to continue learning and improve your skills in your second language when you're among native speakers.
Do not miss completing your internship. Depending on the school, the internship program may be paid or unpaid. Participating in the internship program will add to your work experience, which can help you find work once you graduate.
2. Attend a formal training for interpreters
If you have attended college and want to become an interpreter, there are several universities and colleges that offer formal training to become an interpreter. You can enroll in a community college or university that offers associate degree or certificate programs specifically for interpreter training. Some employers likewise offer training, for example, those who work as medical or court interpreters.
3. Ace the interpreter test
If you are already an interpreter, take language tests voluntarily, because this is for your own good. The state department offer several tests and the federal and state courts offer interpreter certification. The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters and the American Translators Association likewise offer certification tests. In some instances, the certification may not be considered a credential, however, it's proof that you have significant skills, which is helpful to your career, especially if you are a healthcare or court interpreter.
4. Consider continuing education
Professional interpreters should always be up to date, not only regarding current events but on things that are relevant to their career and the subject matter they deal with. Likewise, continuing education is essential. Organizations usually offer workshops and continuing education training. It's one way to advance in your career and add new skills that could prove beneficial when taking on jobs with additional responsibilities and for more work opportunities.
Additional Things to Know to Become an Interpreter
While fluency in another language other than your mother tongue is vital to an interpreter, it is not the only criteria interpreting agencies look for when hiring a new team member.
Your educational qualifications are important, especially for specific types of interpreting services. If you are interested in consecutive or conference interpreting, you should have a degree in languages. It would also be good if you have a postgraduate degree in interpreting.
A professional qualification such as a Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) or certification from the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) is needed when you want to work as a public service interpreter, if you are from the UK. If you want to work in the government sector, a college degree is required.
We established earlier that it is going to be beneficial to your interpreting career to spend some time overseas where your second language is spoken. The experience of immersing yourself in the language and culture of your second language is far better than what you can learn from books. Since you will be using the second language often, you will quickly recognize colloquialisms, dialects and accents. You'll become more familiar with the culture as well, which will help you greatly when you are interpreting.
Types of Interpreting Work
The performance of interpreting work takes on different forms.
This interpreter sits next to the client, and interprets what's being said simultaneously.
Phone or Video Interpreting
For many companies engaged in international business this is a valuable service. It is particularly useful when the company conducts foreign investor briefings, company global affiliate announcements, presentations and conference calls/conferences where language assistance is required.
Online Chat Interpreting
Because Internet access is more widespread, interpreters can also be called upon to do online chat interpretation. The interpreter translates what the parties type over a messaging service. This is particularly helpful for disaster recovery, multilingual technical support and negotiations with foreign suppliers.
This suits smaller audiences such as speeches during company dinners or during corporate presentations. The speaker typically pauses in order for the interpreter to translate part of the speech in the target language.
This is often required when a large number of participants is involved such as in conferences. In this type of interpreting work, setting up of interpreters' booths and the use of headsets are required. The interpreters' booth is sound proof to eliminate ambient noise as they need complete concentration. In a typical setup, two interpreters occupy one booth, allowing one interpreter to rest for a few minutes as the other takes over, since the work is in real time.
So, does it only take a second language to become an interpreter?
While a second language is critical because interpreters work in a language pair, the job demands more than just being fluent in another language.
You should have the confidence to speak in public, ability to think faster and have a clear speaking voice. Your listening skills should be excellent and you need accuracy and eloquence to interpret tone and body language. Moreover, you should be able to translate language in your head quickly and accurately.
Keep Your Communications Accurate – We Can Help You!
Interpreting is not a new career. But innovations and developments in the industry as well as the opening up of the world make interpreters in demand. Because people of the world speak different languages, interpreters bridge the communication gap. If you need a phone interpreter or any type of interpreting service, rely on the best – Day Interpreting. Our interpreters are native speakers and live in-country, so it is very easy for us to connect you with one of our professional interpreters anytime, anywhere you are. Just give us a call at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us. We are open 24/7, every day of the year, so do not hesitate to call us anytime.