Are you considering a career as a translator or an interpreter? This page is a good place to start!
Steps You Must Take to Becoming a Successful Translator or Interpreter
- Step 1: Become bilingual. Being bilingual means you possess superior language skills equally and exceptionally in two languages. Here’s a quick exercise to assess your proficiency. Tell a story about your last vacation in your native language. Then tell the exact same story in your second language. If you struggled with the second language, you need to brush up on your skills!
- Step 2: Train to be an interpreter or translator. Interpreting and translating are separate, difficult and complicated skill sets that must be learned and practiced. Being bilingual doesn’t mean you are automatically able to interpret or translate. We have links to formal college courses and professional certifications that may help you.
- Step 3: Honor the code of ethics and standards of practice. Interpreters must be impartial and not aid clients in any way under almost any circumstance. Some people are not able to do this and consequently cannot be interpreters. Learn about the code of ethics and standards of practice.
- Step 4: Become a subject matter expert. A career in these fields often requires knowledge of specialty related subject matter. Most translators and interpreters must also become knowledgeable about the subject matter they’re most often translating or interpreting. For instance, medical interpreters must understand medical terminology and be able to accurately convey very technical information. You can get a “taste” for what you may need to know by checking out our links to resource.
- Step 5: Learn the culture. Understanding culture is essential. Individuals in these fields must also understand the culture of the individuals that they’re translating or interpreting for in order to make the best choices about how to convey information and meaning.
As you can see, translating and interpreting requires a lot of knowledge and skill. The good news is that motivated individuals can find training to enable them to become skilled professionals.
What’s it like to interpret? Try it for yourself with this exercise!
Turn on your TV to the news. When the newscaster speaks, repeat everything he says, word for word, as soon as he says it. After a minute or so, stop, listen to him say two or three words, remember them and all that come after, and start repeating again, this time lagging those two or three words behind his actual speech but still repeating everything he says, without missing a single word.
After a minute, keep doing this but write out the numbers 1 to 100 on a piece of paper as you speak. Keep repeating. Do this for another minute, then stop, and this time, try listening to the newscaster and at the same time, restart everything he says using synonyms or similar words without changing the message. For example: “The car stopped at the light” could be “The vehicle braked for the semaphore.”
How did you do? Can you do it again in your other language? Try these sample recordings at Acebo.