Tips To Improve Interpreting Skills

Last Updated On: August 27, 2019


Brochure Translation

Interpreters have a unique role in international or interlinguistic communication. They must not only know their two or more languages extremely well, but they must also develop an ability to deal with a specific set of linguistic demands. Interpreters who work as business interpreters have a different set of challenges than those who work in a hospital setting or a courtroom. Interpreting is not a static career. There is always room to improve one’s interpreting capability. Here are some tips intended to help improve interpreting skills.

#1 Fluency counts

Interpreters do not have the luxury of time that translators do. They have to listen carefully to those who they are interpreting for and provide an interpretation of what they hear on the spot. Interpreters may think they are reasonably fluent in their language of choice, but may not be used to all the regional variations of that language. For example, an English / Spanish interpreter may encounter Spanish speakers who speak with a Castillian accent or Andalucian. South American and Central American Spanish is different again. The first tip then is to become familiar with some of the dialects and variations in a language. One way to do that without spending years travelling around a country listening to how people speak is to watch films and listen to the audio content in the language.

#2 Train in a specialisation

Many interpreting services are quite specialised and the interpreter whose job it is to interpret in a specialised field should become familiar with the environment and vocabulary of that field. Many interpreters actually come to interpreting later in life and have spent time in another profession or career beforehand. For example, time spent in the medical field is extremely useful if that person later takes up interpreting as a career as there are opportunities to specialise in medical interpreting, for example in a large urban hospital where here are many different ethnic groups


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#3 Keep your opinions to yourself

When interpreting there will probably be many times when you come across someone you are employed to interpret for whose ideas and opinions you do not agree with. It is not your job to off your own ‘interpretation’ of what the person is saying, i.e. introduce your own slant on that person’s viewpoint. You just have to bite your tongue and concentrate on the job at hand which is to provide as accurate and literal interpretation as possible.

#4 Keep up to date with current affairs

Keep up to date with current affairs in the country whose language you interpret in. Being aware of what’s going on in a country together with its history, political and economic situation is all useful background information which makes it easier to tune into what is being said in an interpreting context.

#5 Be aware of cultural nuances

What one person says in one language doesn’t necessarily go down well in someone else’s. Because as an interpreter it is likely you will come across a lot of colloquial speech and idiomatic language depending on the context, it is important to know what might offend if you convert what you have heard very literally into the other language. There may be culturally more sensitive ways of saying something that someone has said yet still convey the same meaning.

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