In our last post, we covered the substantial language skills and ability for listening and recall it takes to serve as a professional, qualified interpreter.
Today, let's take a look at three more requirements critical to excelling in the field of interpretation:
3. A Strong Ethical Foundation
Interpreters will likely encounter private, sensitive, confidential information in the course of their workday - medical conditions, legal problems, financial data, and more. Keeping that information private and destroying any notes taken once the call concludes are essential interpreter job duties.
Beyond the basics of privacy, being an ethical interpreter also requires remaining impartial and remembering one's role as a conduit, rather than getting sucked into a conversation or dispute on the side of one party or the other. Depending on the scenario, this may be a temptation, but being a true professional requires the interpreter to remain above the fray.
4. Cultural Knowledge
A skilled interpreter must be bicultural as well as bilingual - that is, they have absorbed sensibilities and nuances of two cultures and have inherent abilities to mediate between the two cultures that they belong to. This includes understanding the attitudes some cultures might take toward medicine, finances, family dynamics, etc, and doing one's best to bridge these gaps and foster understanding.
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.”
5. Knowledge of the Subject Matter
Since professional interpreting is meaning-for-meaning rather than word-for-word, interpreters must have a basic knowledge of the subject matter of conversations they interpret. Imagine listening to a lecture on cellular biology without any type of science background, then being asked to restate the speaker's points in your own words. You would likely do poorly - and that's without having to convert the message from one language to another.
Professional interpreters should receive training in the vocabulary and scenarios common to the type of calls they'll be interpreting - be it medicine, law, or financial instruments - to ensure they have the familiarity needed to succeed.
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