Do you speak more than one language? Are you bilingual? Do you want to start a new career?
If the answer is yes for all the above questions, then you might have the perfect profile for this career. But are you good enough to become an interpreter? See below the main characteristics and what’s required to be a good interpreter. Only after reading this article will you know, without a doubt, do you have what it takes to be a good interpreter.
First of all, being an interpreter is not limited to one kind of job. There are plenty of different types of interpreting such as simultaneous interpreting, consecutive interpreting, escort/travel interpreting, whisper interpreting, scheduled telephone interpreting and on-demand phone interpreting. As you can imagine, you will face different situations from one type of interpreting to another with different difficulties and issues. So, you can specialise in one type rather than the other. For example, if you decide to be a simultaneous interpreter, you have to train yourself to convey the exact language sentence by sentence. It is a very typical and difficult process and that is why you cannot improvise, you need to be trained and prepared.
Being an Interpreter
Being a freelance interpreter means that you are an independent contractor. You are your own boss and you make your own decisions. You have no obligation to accept any jobs and you are more flexible on your schedule. Or, you have the option to belong to a company. In this case, you will be considered an employee on a full-time basis including all the usual advantages to working with a contract.
Most employers will prefer an interpreter who has a Bachelor Degree in interpreting, foreign languages or other related fields but it is not always required. An interpreting certification is a plus and you can be certified in one particular field such as medicine for example. It will be an advantage afterwards if you apply for a job related to this field and you will be considered as a specialist in this area. The government also offers certifications and for that, you will pass a series of tests. Some associations also provide it such as The Irish Translators and Interpreters Association.
However, some characteristics remain the same regardless of the type of interpreting. Let’s see together what are the main characteristics that can define a good interpreter.
Being an interpreter is an irregular job depending on the need of the client. It can be early in the morning or late at night. You should be able to adapt your schedule and forget about the regular 9am-5pm routine. It can be an advantage depending on the type of person you are. Having constraints like this on your schedule also means that you have to find a balance between work and free time.
With every interpreting job you will face totally different situations. From one client to another, everything would be completely different: the type of interpreting, the person, the audience, the time, etc. You will work on a case by case basis. So, you should be able to deal with it.
This may seem obvious but it is really important. You need time before the beginning the event to meet your client and to find out the latest details. Prepare yourself before the event. Get as much information as possible about the time, the location and the people you will meet. Think in advance about what could be discussed. If you are easily stressed, it will avoid an additional source of anxiety. It is also a time-saver and you will be more effective.
You should be able to analyse a message in one language and interpret it in another language, all in a short period of time. Sometimes from one language to another, idioms and expressions are not the same. You should be able to transcribe the message while keeping the initial idea. For that, having knowledge in both cultures is essential. You should also be able to express your thoughts clearly by having a lot of vocabulary in both languages.
Be a good listener.
It is the most crucial step in the communication process and it requires a high level of concentration. To not forget important elements, be an active listener, you can take some notes but it means that you should be able to listen and write at the same time.
Take an interest in current affairs.
When you interpret subjects, each one is different as the other such as law, medicine, politics, etc. You should have a working knowledge to be able to interpret all subjects. Global knowledge on the world around us will help you gain a better understanding about what you are interpreting. For that, be a curious, it’s like day to day training. It requires constant work and years of practice.
Control you stress.
You may sometimes face stressful situation such as talking in front of a large group of people or participating in a very formal event. Having strong languages skills, being able to speak clearly and removing speech disorders such as nonverbal elements that reflect your stress is the key to be a good interpreter. Stay neutral in any circumstances and control your emotions. Some situations can lead you to feel emotional but you always have to keep the control on it and only interpret the message without adding any feelings.
With time, you will gain confidence, efficiency and clarity. But, since you are most likely a novice there are many ways to gain experience. You can try volunteering. Some organisations such as hospitals will give you a chance to get experience as an amateur interpreter. Take this opportunity to improve your skills and especially consider doing it after your graduation. It can be a good compromise to get some valuable experience.
So, what is your conclusion, are you ready for this new challenge?