The language industry is a multi-billion-dollar sector, with a future as bright as its present. Language services help individuals and organizations from all around the globe in numberless ways. From helping companies introduce their product to a new audience, to smoothing out the immigration process. In an increasingly interconnected world, those ensuring cross-cultural communication will continue to play a key economic and social role in the years to come.
Do you want to join the language industry, but don’t know where to start? At Day Interpreting, we asked four of our linguists to share advice for industry newcomers, and we compiled their insight into this short and actionable guide.
So, let’s get started by taking a quick look at interpreting vs. translation.
Interpreting vs. Translation: What’s the Difference?
Interpreting and translation share the same goal: Helping people from different cultures understand each other. But they become necessary in different contexts. Simply put, translators work with text, and interpreters work with speech.
For example, a novel can be rendered from Polish to Greek by a translator. But a business meeting between Polish-speaking business people and their Greek-speaking clients should be mediated by an interpreter. Considering this difference, interpreters and translators should have completely different skill sets.
A translator works with a document with the help of dictionaries and other resources, making every stylistic and linguistic choice as carefully as possible. In most scenarios, translators have plenty of time. And the quality of their work is guaranteed by several rounds of editing, proofreading, and client feedback. An interpreter must choose the best way to communicate something, while it’s being said (or briefly after). Interpreters work in real-time, translating aloud.
You could say that, if translation and interpreting were sports, translation would be like chess, and interpreting would be like synchronized swimming.
How to Become a Professional Interpreter
We interviewed four members of the Day Interpreting team, for some first-person insight into the profession.
The experts we interviewed agreed on two key points:
- Before you start looking for interpreting work, you should get certified.
- Cultural understanding is as important as linguistic proficiency.
All our colleagues agree on the importance of training. Chiara Migliore, a professional interpreter from Italy recommends that you:
“GET CERTIFIED! Regardless of how much love, how much passion, and how much dedication you will put on this job (…) Being certified will help you act with more confidence, and clients will not underestimate you.”
In this regard, translator Fidan Aydamirova says:
“Even if you think you have enough experience and knowledge, always work on your skills.”
Bilingual proficiency is not enough to work as an interpreter – or as a translator, for that matter. For instance, when rendering a message from one language into another, you’re likely to find untranslatable ideas or grammar structures. There are best practices you’ll need to learn to solve these types of problems without obscuring the phrase’s intended meaning. Training will also help you gain the listening skills that will make you a precise and swift interpreter.
The training program of your choice should be provided by a reputable institution. Ideally, it should be accredited by a professional association. For example, if you want to become a US-based judicial interpreter, look for programs that have the avail of the National Association Of Judicial Interpreters And Translators (NAJIT).
As Danielson Fernandez from Cape Verde points out:
“Most translators [and interpreters] work in a specific industry or field (healthcare, legal, finance, etc.). This means they need to have specialized knowledge in a certain area to be successful communicators.”
You may want to get some general interpreting training, and then, as you develop your skills, specialize in an area you’re interested in.
Gain Cultural Understanding
As Fidan suggests:
“Always think about cultural differences while interpreting.”
Your goal as a linguist should be making it possible for two parties to communicate with each other. And sometimes, word-by-word translation doesn’t meet that goal. Differences in the syntax and grammar of the languages at hand may make some ideas untranslatable. And cultural differences may make them incomprehensible.
Danielson also mentions that:
“Interpreters should not only be very familiar with more than one language but also have a cultural understanding of the languages we interpret. A strong grasp of cultural norms will help an interpreter better convey what a non-native speaker is trying to get across.”
If you don’t have enough context, you’re likely to mistranslate. On a similar note, Cinthia Pustilnik, an interpreter from Argentina recommends:
“Read the news in both languages you work with – always be VERY updated with what is going on in the world!”
Don’t Forget to Network
Last but not least, Cinthia recommends networking:
“Connect with other interpreters, do as much networking as possible, including social media.”
Cinthia is right. Networking is crucial in all stages of your career, regardless of your industry, but when you’re starting out in a new sector, building the right relationships can change your life. If you’re naturally talented at networking, numbers are on your side. According to a 2016 survey, 85% of critical positions are filled via networking.
In this post, we shared some tips for aspiring interpreters, from members of the Day Interpreting team. Are you a professional interpreter? What advice do you wish you had received as a beginner? Let us know in the comments!
Looking to start a new chapter in your interpreting career? Submit your profile and join our team!