au pair

How to become an interpreter

by NiamhReading time: 4 min.
How to become an interpreter
Your Au Pair year is coming to an end and not quite sure what to do? Why not put your language skills to use and become  an interpreter!

What does an interpreter do?

An interpreter’s main task is to convert spoken language in one language to another language. They are required to do this on the spot using the vocabulary skills and knowledge they already have acquired. Interpreters cannot refer to any references or dictionaries. This can be a very difficult task as interpreters must listen, understand and memorize the spoken language in the first language and then reproduce the spoken language in a target language. Interpreters must ensure that they convey the meaning of the spoken language when they translate into the second one. Usually interpreters will interpret into their native language but sometimes they will interpret in both languages.

What is the difference between interpreters and translators?

Translators and interpreters often are mistaken for having the same job as they are both considered to translate from one language to another. However, these are two very different jobs that require different skills. As discussed in last week's blog translators are expected to translate written texts from one language to another. While interpreters translate spoken language to another language. 
People who work as translators must have excellent writing skills to re-write the texts in the target language. They can use reference materials such as dictionaries to perfect their translations while interpreters must rely solely on their existing knowledge, vocabulary and expertise. This means that they are not under the time pressure that interpreters are under to produce an accurate translation.
Translators often translate into their native language while interpreter’s use both languages. Interpreters also work with people so they need to be conscious they behave in a professional manner at all times while also ensuring they convey the tone and emotions of the speaker.

How much does an interpreter earn?

The salaries of interpreters varies in each country. For example, in the United States the annual salary is approximately $47,190. While in France, the average salary is €46,929. However in the United Kingdom, an interpreter  is expected to earn approximately £41,570 annually. Of course, this all varies depending on your qualifications and experience

Types on interpreters

Interpreters can work in a number of different locations such as hospitals, courthouses or business meetings. The location and reason for needing an interpreter can affect which type of interpretation is used. There are five main types of interpretations. These are as follows:
  • Simultaneous Interpreting: During simultaneous interpreting interpreters must convey a spoken message in a target language at the exact same time that someone is talking. This is quite difficult as interpretations must be simultaneously listening and comprehending the speaker’s next sentence. The goal of interpretation is no to paraphrase but rather to convey the exact language. The interpreter usually sits in a booth, hears the spoken language through an earpiece, and responds into a microphone. Simultaneous interpreting is often used at trade shows and courthouses. Simultaneous interpreting requires a lot of concentration and can be often quite mentally draining. Therefore sometimes a group of interpreters will be used.
  • Consecutive Interpreting: Consecutive interpreting is when the speaker speaks for approximately 1-5 minutes then the interpretations translates to the target language once the key point or paragraph has been discussed. Excellent note taking and memory skills are needed to do consecutive interpreting. Consecutive interpreting usually takes place in small business meetings.
  • Escort/Travel Interpreting: Escort/travel interpreting usually occurs when interpreters accompany clients on business trips abroad. They travel with their clients and attend business meetings. They do not just help the clients with interpreting but help dealing with the cultural differences that the client may encounter.
  • Telephone Interpreting: With telephone interpreting the interpreter is not physically there but rather interprets through the telephone. This is not as accurate as other forms of interpreting, as the speaker is unable to see the facial gestures and hand signals of the speaker. Telephone interpreting can be consecutive or simultaneous if the client is happy to only hear the interpreter speaking.
  • Whispering Interpreting: This is a variation of simultaneous interpretation. In whispering interpretation the interpreter does not wear a headset and sit in a separate booth but sits beside the client and whispers the translations into the clients ear. This type translation is often used in business meetings or interviewing sports stars.

Requirements needed to be an interpreter

Usually interpreters need a bachelor's degree in languages and are expected to be proficient in at least two languages, one of them, which usually is English. Interpretations typically do not need formal training but are expected to show the interpretation skills during the recruitment process. However if you would like to work as an interpreter in a hospital or courthouse for example then you will be required to do specialized training and receive a certificate. It is not necessary to do a bachelor’s or master’s in translational studies. However, having a bachelor’s or master’s degree might improve your chances of being hired and affect your salary. There are a number of associations internationally that offer certificates in translation such as the American Translators Association, of the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters.

Skills and qualities required for interpreters 

  • Language skills
  • Culturally competent
  • Excellent listening skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Work well under pressure
  • Excellent speaking skills 
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Good memory
  • Excellent note taking skills
  • Multi-tasking skills

How being an Au Pair can help you become interpreters 

An Au Pair stay can be a great benefit to you when pursuing a career in interpreting. Spending time in a foreign country, adapting to a new culture and communicating with people in a foreign language are all things interpreters need to be able to do efficiently and professionally. During your Au Pair stay, you could volunteer as an interpreter using your own native language to get experience. Local community organizations such as hospitals and any sporting events that involve international competitors may need interpreters. You can ask your Host Family about opportunities to volunteer as an interpreter in your local area.

Where to start?

The first step is always to update your CV and include some of the skills and qualities, which are essential for interpreters (which you can find above). The next step is to then create a general cover letter, which you can later tailor to each job you are applying for. Your cover letter should include a brief summary of relevant skills and qualities you possess and your motivation for wanting to become an interpreter.The next step is to decide where you would like to work. If you are planning on staying in your host country, you may need to apply for a visa. 
Not sure if being an interpreter is for you? Why not read about other possible jobs after your Au Pair stay.

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