Simultaneous Interpretation Series Part 6 of 6: Skills Simultaneous Interpreters Should Bring to the Profession

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 thought 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!



Nisar, the dynamic force behind Translation Excellence, stands tall as its founder and CEO. This isn’t just any company—it’s a global heavyweight in boutique language services. Hailing from the vibrant city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nisar brought his passion and expertise to the U.S. shores in 2001. In the realm of languages, he’s a titan. With 19 years under his belt, he’s worn hats from a linguist and instructor to a cultural bridge-builder and curriculum craftsman.

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