How to Become an Interpreter
An interpreter verbally translates two languages in real time. They work in a variety of different situations where someone does not speak the local or target language and needs assistance. Working situations can be court trials, hospitals, conferences, or interviews.
An interpreter is someone who instantly verbally translates one language to another in a variety of settings, to enable someone who doesn’t speak the target language to have a dialogue with another person or group of people.
An interpreter will work in various different settings and will usually need to travel to wherever their services are required. They may specialise in a certain type of interpreting, but will often do other interpreting jobs outside of this specialism.
There are two main types of interpretation. Consecutive interpreters will translate chunks of speech during a smaller meeting, often with just two participants. This could be a meeting of diplomats or businesspeople. The interpreter will either translate directly once the speaker has finished a portion of speech, or take detailed shorthand notes during a longer chunk of speech, and then describe what the speaker has said when they have finished talking. Often, each person needing translation will have their own interpreter who will only translate their side.
Simultaneous interpreters translate while the speaker is still talking. They may work in a soundproof booth in a larger conference, where they will translate into a microphone which will be connected to the earpieces of everyone needing the translation. Alternatively, they might do chuchotage (whispering a translation to one participant as another speaks in real time) in a small meeting. Simultaneous interpretation is generally quicker and more efficient. However, doing this for a substantial period of time is intense, and interpreter burnout is common. To combat this, interpreters often switch out after 30 minutes.
Interpreters work in a range of situations. Public service interpreting is another common setting. Interpreters in this area work for legal, health, and government services. They must make sure that the person who they are interpreting for fully understands everything, including any technical terminology; so it can be a high-pressure role, and the settings can be emotionally taxing. Furthermore, public service interpreters may also be required to be on standby for last minute interviews.
To become an interpreter, fluency in the two languages is absolutely essential. Fluency could be obtained from formal education or bilingualism due to living in different countries or growing up with other languages; but it will need to be proven with translations and verbal exams in the application process. A higher linguistic level is needed for interpreting than translating text, because interpreting requires instant verbal translation in often highly stressful environments.
A degree in a foreign language is a great start to becoming an interpreter; but candidates must demonstrate ongoing fluency in their chosen language (temporarily living in a country that speaks the language is a great way to achieve this) as well as knowledge of the slang and culture across all nationalities that they will be working with. Furthermore, depending on their specialism, they must know industry specific words in that language – for example, interpreters for diplomats must have a broad knowledge of world politics in both languages.
Finally, specialist interpreting qualifications are highly desirable. Postgraduate degrees in interpretation are very valuable in this career.
Other skills that are necessary for an interpreter are a clear voice with a neutral accent in both languages, quick thinking skills, and confidence in public speaking.
What degree is most commonly held by an Interpretor?
- Masters of Language Interpretation and Translation
- Bachelor English Language as the Major, with Translation and Interpretation as the Minor
- Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies & Spanish
- Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (Law)
- Bachelor of laws (LLB Hons)
Career Transportability across Countries
What is the Salary of an Interpretor?
|Experience||Average salary | year|
What skills are needed to become an Interpretor?
- Microsoft Office
- Customer Service
- Customer Service
- Foreign Languages
- Public Speaking
- Language Services
- Microsoft Excel
- Technical Translation
- Social Media
- Legal Translation
- Intercultural Communication
- Microsoft Word
The interpreter will be limited to working in countries that speak their native or their target language, but as long as they are appropriately qualified and have a lot of experience, they have a high chance of finding work and being able to emigrate.
- Interpreting for Refugees: Contexts, Practices and Ethics
Learn skills to meet the challenges of interpreting for refugees and share your experiences with other interpreters in the sector
- Literature of the English Country House
Take a journey through the literature of English country houses from the time of Thomas More to Oscar Wilde