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Hiring Interpreters: The Role & Qualifications To Look Out For

Interpreters serve a vital role for those communicating with speakers of other languages, and as employment for interpreters and translators is expected to grow up to 19% by 2028, these jobs are clearly in demand. To hire the very best interpreters, you need to know exactly what you’re looking for. Just because a candidate has impeccable language skills, that doesn’t mean you should hire them on the spot. There’s much more to consider during the hiring process, including qualifications and personal attributes.

The interpreter you employ will essentially be speaking for your business, and potentially creating trading relationships with other companies, so it’s critical you hire an individual who fits your own criteria and meets your team’s own standards. To help, we’ve detailed exactly what an interpreter is and what qualifications, training and experience to look out for when hiring one.

What is the role of an interpreter?

An interpreter is someone who interprets conversations from one language to another, on the spot in real-time. They do this either by interpreting orally, or into sign language. This is not to be confused with translation, which is concerned with the written word. While both of these professions require fluency in multiple languages, the two jobs require many different skills, training and knowledge.

An interpreter converts spoken information from one language to another, often in real-time situations like conferences and meetings, medical appointments, legal proceedings and live TV coverage. By contrast, translators conduct the majority of their work at home, a client’s business, or remotely, as their role relates to the written word and does not require their physical presence.

What duties should an interpreter carry out?

An interpreter listens to a speaker in one language and relays it into another, easing communication between two parties. The speech will often have to be interpreted on the spot, so not everything that’s said will necessarily be conveyed from one language to another. Instead, interpreters will grasp the concept and, particularly for real-time interpreting, paraphrase the speech without losing any of the original meaning. This is beneficial for conference interpreting, though for more sensitive roles such as court interpreting or health-care interpreting, a more precise approach will be required.

Different types of interpreters

Simultaneous interpretation

Simultaneous interpreters interpret languages in real-time, as conversations are happening. They will have to process and memorise the speakers’ words, and translate them into the target language at the same time. This is an intense role for which the interpreter requires the intellectual capacity to instantly translate every aspect of language, including idioms, colloquialisms, and other culturally-specific terminology.

Consecutive interpretation

This interpreter translates language once the speaker has finished speaking, or in pauses during speech. Consecutive interpreters will usually be positioned beside the speaker, listening and taking notes in preparation for translating the messages into the target language. Consecutive interpretation is used in a range of scenarios, including presentations and after-dinner speeches at corporate events, but this also applies to phone interpretation.

Some of the top responsibilities of any interpreter include assimilating words quickly, including any language-specific jargon, idioms and acronyms, which often can be difficult to put into another language correctly. An interpreter should take notes during projects to help their memory, use appropriate recording equipment such as microphones or cameras, and over time, have built specialist vocabularies from the different topics covered in projects.

What qualifications should you look for in an interpreter?

Simply being fluent in multiple languages isn’t enough. For example, although qualifications aren’t a necessity, they will play a big part in an employer’s decision to hire someone. If an individual has a degree in languages and/or interpreting, or a professional qualification from the Chartered Institute of Linguistics, they may be an ideal candidate. Individuals who have gained additional experience during internships or other on-the-job training in a relevant industry, or by studying or working abroad, might also be the right person for the job.

An interpreter should have a thorough knowledge and understanding of their specific industry before starting a job, be familiar with their chosen language’s culture, and have an ability to express thoughts clearly and concisely in both languages. Other skills an interpreter should possess are excellent listening skills, fantastic verbal and written communication, a clear speaking voice and the confidence to speak and interpret in public places.

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