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What Makes a Great Interpreter Part 2

Jul 16, 2014

In my last entry, we discussed how becoming an interpreter requires much more than simply fluency in a second language: as a highly specialized profession, it requires training and practice. We covered two skills that are requisite for a person to become a professional-level interpreter – language skills and listening and recall.

In this second part, we will cover three more skills that needed to be developed in order for someone to become professional interpreter that you can trust: Ethical behavior, cultural knowledge, and subject knowledge.

1. Ethical behavior: Regardless of their field of work, interpreters may encounter confidential or sensitive information. Interpreters working in medical and financial services must be particularly attuned to the strong regulatory environment surrounding patient and consumer privacy.

Ethical behavior extends beyond just keeping what you’ve heard to yourself. On the US Courts website, they list that an interpreter must be both impartial andAble to accurately and idiomatically turn the message from the source language into the receptor language without any additions, omissions or other misleading factors that alter the intended meaning of the message from the speaker.”

2.  Cultural knowledge: It’s not enough for someone to be bilingual, it’s just as important to be bicultural. If a person is bicultural, they have naturally absorbed the sensibilities and nuances of two cultures and have inherent abilities to mediate between the two cultures that they belong to.

Dr. Holly Mikkelson from the Monterey Institute of International Studies states, “in all of their work, interpreters must bridge the cultural and conceptual gaps separating the participants in a meeting.”

3.  Subject knowledge: Imagine if you are tasked to listen to an academic lecture about aerospace engineering and then repeat what you had learned. Unless you are deeply familiar with how aerodynamics work, you might be hard-pressed to make any sense of the lecture, much less repeat it back in a way that is understandable to anyone else.

It is so critical that an interpreter understands the subject material of a conversation they need to interpret. If it is confusing to an interpreter due to lack of knowledge or she doesn’t understand the vocabulary, there is no way the audience of the interpreter will fare any better in understanding what is being said.

Voiance Language Services provides multilingual support in over 200 languages to business and government. Our employee interpreters receive 120 hours of training, including instruction in ethics and specific subjects in interpreting, including healthcare, insurance, and finance. Organizations use Voiance’s telephone interpretation to facilitate communication with customers. Voiance is a subsidiary of CyraCom International, Inc., the 2nd largest provider of Over-the-Phone Interpretation in the United States.