You love languages. You have relatives who speak two or more languages, you’re bicultural, and you have strong ties to a specific country. Or, you just love the challenge of meeting new people and becoming immersed in their culture. No matter the background, you’ve decided that you want to work with language. But how do you take the next step and become a professional interpreter?
- Know what interpreting is. There is a difference between being bilingual, being a translator, and being an interpreter. This information sounds basic, but believe it or not, even in professional circles there is still confusion about what being an interpreter entails.
- Interpreting is spoken. An interpreter is specially trained to communicate orally what is being said into the target language. Translation does the same thing, but it’s written. It’s easy to confuse, because in languages such as Spanish, the term “translation” is used to describe both spoken and written communication. Read more on the TikkTalk blog: The difference between interpreters and translators: don’t mix them up!
- Becoming bilingual is only the first step. There are different levels of verbal proficiency, and it’s absolutely essential that an interpreter possess near-native or native proficiency in the language. You must be able to communicate on specific topics in different registers of language, be conscious of cultural differences, and have a flexible and growing vocabulary.
- Get the proper education and certification for your country. In Norway, for example, the Norwegian Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi) is the only body authorised to grant state certification to interpreters. The certification is awarded for completing a demanding test conducted by the Oslo and Akershus University College (HiOA).
They can also take bilingual proficiency tests and introductory courses to interpretation techniques and ethics.
Read more about the different qualification levels for interpreters in Norway here: Qualification levels for interpreters. In other countries, the formal education and certification process will be different, but will still include a series of higher education courses and tests.
- Become an expert in your field. A professional interpreter also takes classes and receives training working in fields such as medicine, law, business or marketing. The learning process continues even after formal training and coursework have been completed.
- Hone your near-native verbal proficiency. Know the cultural and linguistic differences within the region in which a language is spoken. A great way to accomplish this task is to study abroad in the area that speaks the language and dialect in which you want to specialise. That way you will both become as fluent as possible, and become accustomed to the cultural and linguistic nuances of all levels of the language.
- The more critical the need, the higher the pay. Interpreting wages vary drastically. They depend upon the country, the sector, how common the language is, and how easy it is to get an experienced interpreter. In the US, for example, uncertified, on-call medical interpreters in Spanish receive as little as 15 American dollars per hour. In Norway, the situation is different and public authorities should always use certified interpreters. With TikkTalk’s marketplace, interpreters can set their own price and interpretation users will choose the interpreter needed for their assignment based on qualifications, price and availability. That means that a highly trained and experienced interpreter can make a considerable amount per hour, particularly in critical situations such as interpreting in court, or an impromptu business meeting.