Interpreters are communication and language experts who listen to, comprehend, and translate oral communications from one language to another in conferences and other similar public events, or in televised events and shows that are broadcasted internationally. In other words, their services are required whenever the spoken language may not be understood by all attendees. Interpreters may be self-employed or work for an agency dedicated to providing such services.
Interpreters usually specialize in and work with two languages, their mother tongue and any other chosen language. However, they may also specialize in a third or even a fourth language, provided they possess high levels of fluency in either one.
There is a common misconception that Interpreters and Translators are the same. Even though they’re both language experts, these two careers shouldn’t be confused with one another, and the main difference between them is what they translate. While Interpreters work with oral communications, Translators work with the written word; notwithstanding, many of these professionals provide both types of services.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Interpreters are required to complete.
- Conveying a message originally expressed in a language into another, either at the same time as someone speaks or following the initial speech using special equipment (e.g. from a booth, using a microphone and earphones) when necessary:
- Doing research prior to attending the event (e.g. conference, meeting, or speech) in order to be familiar with the subject matter and to anticipate the speaker’s sentences;
- being proficient in the use of complex terminology and technical language;
- listening, interpreting, and speaking at the same time someone else is speaking, ensuring that the message relayed remains the same;
- maintaining the same rhythm and intonation as the speaker in order to convey a message with the same intention;
- taking notes so as to not miss any details during the speech;
- working with another Interpreter, taking turns to interpret; and
- assisting tourists and foreign visitors by accompanying them and serving as their personal Interpreters.
- Providing translation services for the hearing-impaired using sign-language:
- Displaying high proficiency in the use of American Sign Language (ASL) and all of its intricacies.
- Working as an Interpreter before a court of law when necessary:
- Providing interpreting services in court by reading legal documents aloud in different languages or accurately translating spoken testimonies.
- Conveying concepts from one language to another, ensuring the meaning and intonation stay true to the original.
- Preparing for incoming projects beforehand by doing all the necessary research and studying.
- Working efficiently with other Interpreters.
The average Interpreter salary is $63,450 per year or $33 per hour. This is around 1.9 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $44,000 while most experienced workers make up to $89,000. These results are based on 124 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Possessing high levels of concentration, focus, and attention to details:
- Being capable of simultaneously listen and translate a continuous flow of ideas.
- Strong grasp of the languages they’re working with, grammar structures, and specialized or technical terminology.
- Impeccable communication and interpersonal skills:
- Displaying high levels of fluency in at least two languages;
- being able to project their voices so that the entire audience can hear;
- being capable of thinking through or understanding new, complex, and technical concepts in order to convey them through another language; and
- being capable of maintaining a friendly and professional relation with their customers.
- Possessing high levels of cultural awareness and sensitivity:
- Being knowledgeable about the cultural backgrounds of the target language and audience.
- Analytical and investigative skills:
- Effectively researching, reading, and interpreting information.
- Possessing the necessary manual dexterity in order to fluently communicate in sign language.
- Outstanding levels of honesty and responsibility:
- Handling sensitive or confidential information;
- being capable of separating their emotions and prejudice from their work; and
- following strict ethical guidelines and client confidentiality rules.
- Strong organizational and time management skills:
- Being capable of working under pressure and reacting quickly while interpreting;
- being flexible, willing to work within constantly changing priorities; and
- having strong multitasking skills; being able to work independently and as part of a team in a dynamic, fast-paced environment.
Work experience and a bachelor’s degree in Translation, Interpretation, Languages, or English are essential for these professionals. In fact, most companies only hire Interpreters who have related work experience, from 2 to 5 years, which can also be obtained through volunteer work.
The number of languages an Interpreter masters usually translates to experience; the more, the better. Professionals in the area that can speak languages spoken in countries with growing economies, such as Arabic or Mandarin, may also have an edge against competition. Immersing themselves into the culture tied to each language, will also be a great advantage for the candidate, since this experience confers the possibility of learning about the different cultural and linguistic intricacies of several regions.
When it comes to Conference Interpreters, employers tend to prefer candidates with demonstrated proficiency in at least three languages (in Canada, the most common combination is interpreting in English, French, and Spanish).
In Canada, The Canadian Translators, Terminologists, and Interpreters Council (CTTIC) is in charge of overseeing all licensing procedures for the aforementioned professions. This association also sets the industry’s standards and ensures they’re being met.
The job of an Interpreter is considered very unique. These professionals sometimes have the opportunity of travelling all over the world and meeting interesting people.