The Ultimate Guide: How To Become an Interpreter in 5 Steps

The Ultimate Guide: How To Become an Interpreter in 5 Steps

Do you speak two or more languages fluently?

And do you think you can be the connection between people who speak different languages?

If your answer is yes, then you should think about becoming an interpreter.

The interpreter’s job is very demanding but also very pleasing for those who want to do something peculiar with their career. 

 

Find out how you can become an interpreter and what is the difference between being a translator or interpreter in this five-step guide.

The Difference Between Translator And Interpreter

Knowing the difference between a translator and an interpreter is the first step to understanding the interpreter’s job.

Translators are book lovers, people who sit around with tons of dictionaries and other language books that can help them translate the document from one language to the other being accurate as much as possible.

Interpreters like speaking and listening to what other people have to say. They help different language speakers to understand each other in real-life situations.

Simply speaking, translators like to write, while interpreters like to talk.

Simultaneous or Consecutive Interpreter?

There is a slight difference between simultaneous and consecutive interpretation.

If you interpret the words right after you hear them, it is a simultaneous interpretation.

When you listen to the speaker for a couple of minutes and then start to interpret, that is a consecutive interpretation.

As for the consecutive interpretation, there is a short and long-form.

When we are talking about the short form, it is the interpretation that starts after the speaker finishes a sentence or two.

The long-form of consecutive interpretation usually requires that the speaker finishes the whole paragraph, and then they begin interpreting as accurately as possible. In this case, interpreters take notes and have help with recourse materials to make the interpretation as accurate as possible.

5 Step-Guide on How to Become an Interpreter

Now that you know the basics, let’s dive into the five-step guide on how to become an interpreter.

Step 1: Do You Have That Thing To Become an Interpreter?

  • Is the Interpreting Job Right For You?

Why are languages important? Because they are the essential, first, and last part of the interpreting process.

Some people are natural talents who can learn a new language in no time, while others struggle with one phrase for too long.

However, learning languages super fast is not enough. Interpreters should have excellent listening skills. They also need good listening skills. It means that they have to understand speakers not only when they talk fast but also when they mumble a little bit.

If you don’t have the gift for learning languages super fast, don’t be discouraged. You will need more time and much more effort to succeed, but that can be worth your time, especially if you think that this is your dream job. 

 

  • Commit Yourself to Language Learning

If you want to become an interpreter, you need to speak languages fluently.

To get to this path, you have to commit yourself to language learning.

Many methods can help you learn languages successfully. You can choose the one that suits you.

Even if you succeed in getting to the fluency path, you aren’t done there. It is a life-learning job.

Classic books and academic research aren’t enough. You have to listen to the radio, podcasts, watch movies and TV shows. You have to give your best to maintain your listening skills at the highest level.

Step 2: What Kind of Interpreter You Want to Be?

Interpreters focus on one field and make an effort to perfect it. There are many different fields for interpreters. We are going to mention some of them.

 

  • Legal interpreter

If you are considering becoming a legal interpreter, you have to give extra effort.

Accuracy and discretion is something a legal interpreter has to respect since events in the court can have severe consequences for people.

 

  • Medical interpreter

Medical interpreters are an essential part because when there is a health problem, everyone wants to receive an exact explanation about their condition and, eventually, treatments.

Healthcare interpreters are obliged to know every detail of the medical terminology.

Becoming a medical interpreter is considered a high-demanding job, but the satisfaction of helping other people in trouble is priceless.

 

  • Business interpreter

Helping management to understand their employees who speak different languages, or business owners to arrange new projects or develop the existing ones is one part of the business interpreters’ job.

If you think that this field of interpreting is a piece of cake, it isn’t.

Perhaps no one is ill or goes to jail, but misinterpreting can have many consequences.

 

  • Travel Interpreter

Travel interpreters not only interpret for you, but they are a walking encyclopedia of culture and history.

So, this kind of interpreting can be a highly demanding job. However, helping and showing visitors the beauty of a foreign land is pleasant and entertaining.

 

Step 3: Certification

Even though it isn’t required to have certificates for interpreting, many benefits come from having one. 

There are many types of certifications available. If you want to know how to become a certified interpreter, you can read about some of the organizations where you can get certifications in the following lines.

 

For those who choose to be healthcare interpreters, written and oral exams are obligatory for the medical interpreter certification.

Exams are available in the following languages:

  • Chinese
  • Korean
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Vietnamese

 

In the USA, legal interpreters can apply to take exams from the National Center for State Courts.

Besides fluently speaking English and at least one more language, an applicant is required to have a minimum of two years of general college or university.

 

If you are looking for a certification that can be used for business interpretation, among others, then you should check the ATA.

Their certifications are one of the most recognized and respected in the industry.

To earn the ATA certifications, an applicant has to pass a three-hour exam.

 

Step 4: Further Education

You must be wondering if knowing the language and thawing the certification are enough?

But what about college degrees? Do interpreters need a bachelor’s degree?

Education and diploma may vary, depending on what type of interpreter you want to be.

For example, if you want to become a healthcare interpreter, then a high school diploma is enough. It also depends on the place where you want to work as an interpreter.

In reality, a bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement for becoming an interpreter.

 

  • Schools and Courses for Interpreters

If you decide to do an interpreter’s job for a living, then you need to upgrade your education all the time.

Luckily, many specialized schools and institutions offer useful courses for translators and interpreters.

Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center is suitable for those who seek or already work for the American military.

Department of Interpretation and Translation of Gallaudet University that offers a complete education for interpreters, including the Master and Ph.D. Interpretation program.

La Salle University in Pennsylvania offers courses, after which you become the Master of translation and interpretation for the Engish-Spanish Spanish-English language pair.

 

Step 5: Practice Is Essential

When you pass all exams and earn the required certifications, you have to use every chance you can get to practice.

 

  • Keep Your Listening Skills Up-To-Date

No matter if your listening skills are beyond great, you have to work to keep them that way.

You should avoid the situation when you can’t hear or understand clearly what the speaker is saying. Especially in the professional field, you need to keep your listening skills up-to-date.

 

  • Join Organizations And Associations

Joining organizations and associations can benefit you.

You can always hear the latest news in the professional field. On top of that, they organize interpreter training programs for their members.

Moreover, you can find an experienced interpreter who can help you get started and give you some tips on avoiding most typical interpreting mistakes. One of them is the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters & Translators, which is ideal for court interpreters.

 

  • Volunteer

On one hand, volunteering can help you get to practice and experience, and, on the other, you can help someone who can’t afford an interpreting job.

One of the volunteering organizations is the National Languages Service Corps. It is an organization where you can join without a fee. The requirements you have to fulfill are to be at least 18 years old, U.S. citizens, and speak English fluently and at least one more language.

 

Final Thoughts

The path to becoming an interpreter is not easy.

It takes a long time and effort.

However, the satisfaction of doing something you love is priceless.

What's the difference between translator and interpreter?

Knowing the difference between a translator and an interpreter is the first step to understanding the interpreter’s job. Translators are book lovers, people who sit around with tons of dictionaries and other language books that can help them translate the document from one language to the other being accurate as much as possible. Interpreters like speaking and listening to what other people have to say. They help different language speakers to understand each other in real-life situations. Simply speaking, translators like to write, while interpreters like to talk.

What skills do you need to be an interpreter?

Good listening skills, great speaking skills in the target language, excellent memory, good note-taking skills

How can I become an interpreter without a degree?

You don't need a degree to become an interpreter, but you need fluent knowledge of the target language.

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