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Here you’ll find a very comprehensive list of questions we frequently get here at the Upper Midwest Translators and Interpreters Association (UMTIA). Please review the list carefully to find the answers you’re looking for.

If you don’t find the information you’re looking for, please feel free to contact us.

Why should I join UMTIA?

There are many great benefits to being a member of UMTIA.  Find out what they are.

How do I join UMTIA?

It’s easy!  Find out how.

How do I get help using the membership website?

Send an email to UMTIA’s membership director at [email protected].

How long are my membership dues good for?

Membership dues are good for the year you join.  Whether you decide to join in January or in June, your dues are valid until December 31 of the same year.

Why does UMTIA charge for workshops?

We charge for the workshops for several reasons. UMTIA has overhead costs such as maintaining the website, paying for the software we use to coordinate events, maintaining our legal and financial obligations with the State. The workshop in itself involves some costs, such as the handouts, the food, an honorarium for the speaker, and sometimes auditorium or classroom rental fees.  None of the organizers, whether board members or volunteers for the event, receive any payment for the time, effort and resources that they put in.

We have also decided to charge because from experience we’ve seen that if something is free, it is not valued. With the income from the workshops we are awarding scholarships to interpreters/translators to take college courses to improve the standards in the field and we are looking into other ways in which to advance the profession.

I speak another language. How do I become an interpreter?

We’re glad you asked! Becoming an interpreter requires a lot of training, preparation, and study, and we encourage you to go for it!  But, you should know that before you start, you must be bilingual, meaning you must speak 2 languages equally well and very, very well.  Being bilingual is the first step, the first requirement to be able to begin learning the very difficult, separate skill of interpreting.  Just because someone is bilingual does not automatically make them an interpreter.  If you are bilingual, we suggest you start by enrolling in a college level certificate or degree program.  If you are not yet bilingual but wish to become bilingual and pursue interpreting, we suggest you spend at least a year living completely immersed in a country where your second language is spoken, study, and speak the language every day.  Click here to find out more.

What’s the difference between interpreter and translator?

An interpreter works with the spoken word or oral message and a translator works with the written word only.  If you have a client who only speaks French and you need to meet with her in person to ask her some questions, you would call an interpreter.  If you had a written document, say a French birth certificate, that you needed reproduced English, you would call a translator.  An interpreter interprets and a translator translates.  The terms are not interchangeable.

How much do interpreters and translators get paid?

Pay for interpreters varies depending upon if they are freelance independent contractors (no benefits) or working for a single organization such as a hospital or court district, upon the work setting, and upon any certifications or training they have.  Interpreters’ pay can range from $17 to $80 per hour or more.

Pay for translators can be per word, per time, or per project, and depends on the subject matter and experience of the translator.  Most earn between 10 and 20 cents per source word.

Where do I find work?

One of the best ways to find work is to attend an UMTIA event and ask your fellow interpreters and translators where they find work.  If you want to work as an independent contractor, being your own boss, your colleagues can point you in the direction of local agencies who offer work.  If you want to be an employee of an organization like a hospital, courthouse or school district, look online at their website and apply when there’s an opening.

How do I study for an interpreting certification exam?

We highly recommend that you complete a college level translation and interpreting program such as those offered at Century College and the University of Minnesota before attempting to take any certification exam as this will give you the best chance of not only passing the exam, but being prepared to start working.  After that and in general, it is best to start studying at least six months ahead of your exam date and 30 minutes or more every day.

It isn’t something you can cram for the night before.  Interpreting is a skill that must be practiced and acquired over a long period, similar to learning to play an instrument.  Use the Acebo materials to practice with, alone and with other experienced interpreters whom you trust to give you honest feedback. Record yourself and listen carefully to the playback to make sure you are interpreting accurately.  Interpret TV shows, the radio news, anything you can because every moment is a chance to practice, write down vocabulary you don’t know and look it up later.  Study glossaries and dictionaries appropriate for your exam.

Do memory building exercises and practice note taking for consecutive interpreting, shadowing and dual tasking exercises for simultaneous.  Follow another interpreter around at work and try to interpret silently in your head as if you were the one working.  Only take a certification exam if you have prepared well, otherwise you will waste your money.  Practice, practice, practice and you will do great!

What does certified interpreter mean? If I have a certificate in interpreting and translation, does that mean I am certified?

Certificate and certified are two completely different things.

If an interpreter is certified, it means that they have taken and passed an independent examination, accepted, sanctioned, and promoted by a governing body, that has specifically tested their interpreting skills, and shows they are competent to interpret.  This is the only way an interpreter can become certified.

Having a certificate from a college or other training program does not mean you are certified.  A certificate is just a piece of paper that states that you have fulfilled all the necessary requirements for their courses and completed the program, like a report card.

What is the roster?

In Minnesota, there are currently 2 rosters: the Minnesota Department of Health Interpreters in Healthcare Roster and the MN State Court Interpreter Roster.  They are both lists of contact information of interpreters who are available to be called upon to work. The State Court Interpreter Program requires interpreters attend an orientation and pass a code of ethics exam before they can be listed.  Usually, an interpreter is required to be listed on one or both of these rosters in order to be given work.

The rosters are not interchangeable, meaning that an interpreter cannot say “yes, I am on the roster” when in court if he/she is only on the medical roster.  Being on one roster does not mean he/she is automatically on both and must always accurately represent which roster he/she is actually on to the parties being interpreted.

I have never worked with an interpreter before. What do I need to know?

There are actually several things you need to know. Learn more.

How do I hire an interpreter? How much do they cost?

Can I use a family member instead of hiring a professional interpreter?

No.  Family members, especially children, are not trained interpreters who follow the code of ethics that requires interpreters to interpret everything being said, no matter what, to remain impartial, and to keep everything confidential.  You can not be assured all you are saying is being communicated with a family member, nor that they are not censoring your client’s words, due to their lack of knowledge of terminology, subject matter embarrassment, or desire to protect their loved one from difficult news.  It is always more efficient, more cost effective, and just better all the way around to use a trained professional interpreter.

Where or how can I sign up for a 40 hour training program?

UMTIA does not offer nor condone these types of programs.  Please be aware that these programs scratch the surface of what it means to work as an Interpreter and should not be considered sufficient to enter the workforce as an Interpreter.

There a few programs that vary slightly which are being used in the interpreting community. However, these programs are offered mostly through interpreting agencies throughout the state.  You will have to call the agency to find out if and what type of 40 hour training they offer.

A better option would be to explore the Translating and Interpreting programs offered through Century College or the University of MN. These offer college level courses that go into the necessary depth to provide you with the best preparation possible to work successfully as an Interpreter.  UMTIA has scholarships available specifically for these programs.  Please click here to find out more about scholarship eligibility and requirements.


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