How To Become An Interpreter

interpreters are required to be fluent in more than one language because they are responsible for transmitting information from one language to another language. prospective interpreters should start working toward this profession from high school and during their undergraduate studies. they should take courses in another language as well as english writing and comprehension. interpreters should be familiar with the relevant specialized terminology. computer proficiency is also needed for this career. an undergraduate degree is required by most employers; however, a language major is not necessary. many professional interpreters are degree holders in unrelated fields.

some areas in this field require technical expertise, so if you wish to work in these, then you must earn a master's degree. formal specialized training is also needed in some states. this could be pursued at colleges and universities as well as through professional training conferences, programs, and courses. job specific training programs are also offered for some positions. certification exams involve written assessments and oral proficiency tests.

essential characteristics
to excel in this field, interpreters should possess the following qualities:

  • a nonjudgmental and nondiscriminatory attitude
  • outstanding interpersonal and communication skills
  • physical stamina
  • flexibility
  • objectivity
  • self-discipline

job titles
they work under the following roles:

  • court interpreter
  • medical interpreter
  • technical translator
  • paraprofessional translator
  • educational interpreter
  • deaf interpreter
  • sign language interpreter

what do they do?
the basic responsibility of an interpreter is to switch information from one language to another without changing its meaning and cultural context. they should have a strong command over the two languages as their work will involve reading, writing, and speaking. they also perform the following:

  • simultaneous or consecutive translation of languages
  • convey  the exact style, tone, intention, and cultural context
  • develop a shorthand system
  • anticipate the end of a speaker's sentences
  • read and rewrite legal documents, news reports, and scientific works into specified languages.
  • ensure consistency of words, concepts, practices, or behaviors in the translated work
  • adhere to ethical codes
  • ensure translational accuracy by making use of reference material, computerized terminology banks, lexicons, and encyclopedias

employment outlook
the occupational outlook for this profession is very bright. the us bureau of labor statistics has predicted that employment of interpreters is expected to grow by 42% from 2010 to 2020. this rate is much faster than the average of all occupations. the most likely explanation of this projection is that the us population is becoming more and more diverse. traditionally, these professionals were hired for services in german, spanish, french, and italian languages only. but now, increased international trade and global ties have necessitated the use of languages like arabic, korean, chinese, and japanese. other fields such as law, healthcare, and military also require these services. court and medical certified interpreters may have better job prospects.

wages and employment opportunities
the median annual wage of interpreters and translators was around $43,000 in may 2010. the exact amount will depend upon several factors including education, skill, experience, technical proficiency, and subject matter. job opportunities are concentrated in urban areas like new york, washington dc, and los angeles. their services are required in the following situations:

  • interviews
  • classrooms and lab instruction
  • religious settings
  • musical and theatrical performances
  • conferences, banquets, presentations and workshops
  • social service offices



Q:How long does it take to become an interpreter?

A:It can take you 1-2 years after high school to become an interpreter. You must seek professional certification from a recognized board. There are different categories of interpreter certifications and training programs. You can opt for American Sign Language ASL interpreter, or courses for interpretation in other languages. The training program requirements will depend upon which school you enroll in.

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