As a conference interpreter, your role is to facilitate a conversation in a meeting between multinational parties, the clients of which ranging from small companies to international organizations to government meetings. As the interpreter, you become almost as essential to the meeting as the official members because you are the link between them. Therefore, how prepared you are for a job directly impacts the conference itself. There are numerous ways in which you can plan for a high quality performance, so a combination of practice and preparation are key to being a great conference interpreter. Here are 5 guidelines to help you to be the most successful in your interpretation work:
1. Ability to Communicate
Since you are joining a professional, official meeting, the way you communicate and conduct yourself must reflect the setting. A great conference interpreter can transmit a clear and accurate interpretation without getting flustered by the pace of the conversation or unknown phrases. To avoid this, you must practice speaking aloud. Focus on the quality of your diction and the sound of your voice. Make sure you are in control of these and are portraying yourself professionally and clearly.
2. Cultural Respect
Because you will be dealing with various types of people in this role, you need to be familiar with the cultures associated with the languages you are interpreting. Certain regions of the world have particular customs on how to conduct oneself in a business setting. Being versed in how to properly interact according to a custom is a skill that will fortify your competence for the job. Even if you are not interacting directly with the official members, knowing their customs will determine how you interpret what they dictate.
3. Extensive Knowledge
Before a meeting, it is possible that you may not have any preparation materials provided to you in a timely manner. A great conference interpreter therefore needs an expansive general education that translates across all of the languages that they are responsible for. Build yourself a glossary of phrases and vocabulary that you encounter. Whatever context you are given before the job, use it! At the least, make sure to do some research on the parties that are involved and make sure that you can adequately cover the subjects that they are involved in.
Your job is only to be the interlocutor of this official group of people, so the matters that you interpret are not your privilege to share or use. Consider the obligation to respect professional confidentiality as an explicit part of your role.
5. Disciplined Concentration
Your participation is essential to the meeting’s success, and therefore your attention must be on the speaker at all times. For the majority of cases, interpreters work in teams so that they are not overburdened by having to be fully alert to the individual’s speech during lengthy meetings. This way they are able to switch off with other interpreters every 20 or 30 minutes to give their brain a rest, usually continuing to take notes and following along with the meeting.