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Welcome to the final article in our six-part series on simultaneous interpretation! By now you’re familiar with many of the requirements necessary to be an effective interpreter or to evaluate an interpreter’s work, but we Simultaneous interpretationthought it’d be helpful to summarize these points.

Interpreters who want to convey language meaning and cultural nuance must be prepared with a wide range of skills. It isn’t enough to merely be able to speak the language fluently or even to understand cultural differences between two countries. In order to truly interpret effectively, interpreters need to be mindful of several factors.

Keep the following points in mind if you’re interested in working as a professional interpreter, need to hire a professional interpreter, or as a method to evaluate the effectiveness of an interpreter you’ve worked with in the past. For more information on each of these points, please see our previous five articles on simultaneous interpretation.

  • Language competence – Interpreters should be fluent in both languages, which means usually having grown up speaking both languages at home or spending time in both countries.
  • Cultural competence – Interpreters should be culturally competent, which means they should be able to convey body language, facial expressions, and hand gestures between two cultures.
  • Timeliness – The interpreter should be at least 10-15 minutes early to any interpretation assignment.
  • Attire – The interpreter is a professional and should dress accordingly, regardless of the dress of participants or presenters. This generally means business casual or more formal, as the event dictates.
  • Preparedness – The interpreter should be prepared with any notes, outlines, event materials, and other relevant resources to enable him or her to effectively and accurately communicate the speaker’s message.
  • Humor – It’s never fun being serious all the time, so the interpreter should be prepared to convey humor in both languages, including small anecdotes, plays on words, and quick asides.
  • Language – The interpreter should be comfortable interpreting, even when expressions may be unfamiliar.
  • Equipment – The interpreter should understand the basics of the interpretation equipment used.

What do you think the most important qualities are to keep in mind when hiring a professional interpreter for an assignment? Is one more important than another, or are they all equally necessary? Let us know in the comments below!

5 thoughts on “Simultaneous Interpretation Series Part 6 of 6: Skills Simultaneous Interpreters Should Bring to the Profession

  1. Great series
    Thank you for sharing.
    I have worked as a Medical Interpreting for the last four years as an independent contractor and as a in-office medical employee for different medical providers on and of since 1979.

    i have also done conferences and entertainment events and I can definitively agree with your comment about being knowledgeable of both cultures being of the up most importance to relay the best possible translation.

    Being Bilingual and Bicultural are in my opinion the biggest assets for an interpreter, his/her source and his/her target audience.

  2. Thank you very much for your article .
    I could not agree more with you
    And, I would like to say though that here in Rio de Janeiro you can meet interpreters working at this level .
    Great professional groups I have been working with , in different occasions and in different places, schools, universities and
    enterpreises . with us .

    Thank you

    Hope some day you will have the opportunity to work

  3. A student of Interpretation here and am really eager to get into the job market. I find your posts useful!

  4. As a professional interpreter in Argentina, I also believe that interpreters should be able to “work” their voices, to avoid monotony, unchanging tones, to be able to convey facial and/or body expressions with their voices.

    The ability to be critical of your own work is, in my opinion, another great asset. We can always improve!!

    Thanks for your articles, they are really interesting!

  5. Spot on regarding the — let’s call them — “extracurricular skillsets” one brings to the table. Humor plays a huge role in my personal case being an interpreter for a wide variety of technical seminars and certification courses, where the audience is mostly engineers and technicians. As such, these professionals are used to being on their toes day in-day out, so seating them in a conference room, 8 hours a day, for over 4 days, necessarily has to bring out the best entertainment skills an interpreter has. Also, knowledge of the nuances of wireless equipment comes in handy when something suddenly stops working and one has to combine humor and quick thinking to get back to normal; have done this more tan I would have wanted, but 30 years and many seminars, conferences and courses later, I’m still here! Thanks for the information, it was a joy to read.


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