Interpreting is a lot more complex than simply speaking in another language. Professional interpreters need to keep one step ahead of the conversation to keep things flowing and make all kinds of interpretational decisions to make sure the intended meaning of every comment comes across as it should.
There is no time for second thinking, either. Interpreters need to make these decisions and deliver impeccable translations in real-time to keep the conversation from falling apart – no easy task, you can take it from us. So how do the pros manage to interpret speech so quickly and keep the conversation going
Language skills are only the beginning
Of course, you are going to need an interpreter that is fluent in all of your required languages, but this alone is not enough to deliver quality interpreting services. The skillset your interpreter is going to need depends on the kind of environment you are dealing with and this will be a lot clearer after looking at some of the different types of interpreting services you might need.
- Face-to-face interpreting: An interpreter is present in the room or at the venue between speaker and listeners.
- Telephone interpreting: Over-the-phone interpreting delivers a rapid, on-demand service where your interpreter works without being present in the conversation.
- Video interpreting: Designed for deaf or hard-of-hearing audiences or scenarios where speaker and listeners cannot be present in the same room.
- Whispering interpreting: Where an interpreter sits next to a listener (or uses a headset) to tell them what is being said.
- Simultaneous interpreting: An interpreter is tasked with handling a conversation with multiple speakers and often multiple languages in real-time.
As you can see, each of these different types of interpreting services comes with unique challenges. In some cases, it can be useful for an interpreter to be present in the conversation and be able to see the facial expressions and body language of speakers. In other scenarios, an interpreter might be better off being completely detached from the conversation so they can focus entirely on keeping up with the conversation and interpreting accurately.
Often, the more demanding the conversation is for an interpreter, the more they need to detach themselves from it and any other distractions – especially stress that might impact their performance.
What other skills do professional interpreters need?
The skill set depends on the kind of project you are dealing with – for example, an interpreter working in a hospital needs to have a certain amount of empathy and a gentle nature, especially when it comes to delivering bad news. Likewise, an interpreter working for an insurance company may have to make some difficult interpretational decisions about the emotion behind someone’s words, which could impact the way they are understood.
This is an important distinction: interpreting is not simply translation but an ongoing interpretation of a speaker’s intended meaning – and this can involve more than words alone.
Something every interpreter is going to need (for any kind of project) is subject expertise. Aside from topical knowledge, they also need a strong grasp of all technical languages, jargon and nuances that come with the subject matter you are dealing with. You do not want an interpreter to hesitate over important medical terms or use the wrong meaning of a word that has a unique meaning in your industry.
For example, “crash” has a very different meaning in the motor industry field vs software development.
For professional interpreters, the key is removing any potential barriers between them and delivering the most accurate results in real-time. It can be something as simple as the technology they use (eg: video interpreting) and making sure everything works correctly to avoid any technical issues.
Or, at a more fundamental level, this includes the extensive linguistic and psychological training interpreters go through to help them channel into the conversation, block out external distractions and focus on delivering accurate interpretations of everything said.
Contact our team of dedicated professionals, who can help you with your interpreting needs.