FAQs and top tips for interpreters you can’t miss

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Transitioning from on-site to remote settings can be difficult, especially in the language industry. Interpreters and translators, however, face different challenges in this change. While translators typically work from offices and use written communication forms, it might not be an issue for them, but what about the interpreters?

Interpreters work in many multilingual meetings, and previously, most pre-COVID-19 events happened in venues. Happily – the event industry is not the same as it was when the pandemic began. Remote solutions are now available for interpreters too, and students interested in becoming interpreters shouldn’t worry.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 20% employment growth for interpreters and translators between 2019 and 2029 – so you’re just on time to get on board!

With proper planning and some background knowledge, working as an interpreter remotely might not be a challenging task. In this article, you will get to know:

  • The answers to the most basic questions on why and how to become an interpreter
  • Top 8 tips on remote interpreting by our experts to boost your performance

Let's get started!

Top general FAQs from our experience

If you are considering a job as an interpreter, it's crucial to know how the interpreters work and what interpretation companies can offer them right now. The answers to the most popular question await below!

What is the job of an interpreter?

First of all, keep in mind that market analysts usually put interpreters and translators under the same roof. However, these are two very different professions and terms.

To understand the main difference, you must know that translators aid communication through written material and interpreters rely on speech or sign language. They are like oral translators that aid spoken communication.

A professional interpreter must be fluent in at least two languages. The interpretation process usually happens between A, B, and C languages – your native language and up to two foreign languages. However, one language that is not your mother tongue is entirely enough for interpreters and translators to start working.

While interpreting, you are constantly converting messages between a language pair. You mostly rely on spoken messages on various topics and help foreign visitors, multilingual event attendees, or any private clients to communicate without the language barriers.

Depending on the type of interpretation, you might work in informal settings as one of the multilingual community interpreters. What if you are a court interpreter? Well, the settings change, and you might work on the top-secret, high-level cases. You can find out more about that in our article, which analyzes all the interpretation types.

Why become an interpreter?

The very first reason which comes to our mind is the versatility of this career path. Language interpreters work in every market that you could imagine. From medical interpreters to conference interpreters, you can shift your career at any time.

But keep in mind – this job is demanding. You will extensively train active listening, improve your vocabulary, grow, and constantly learn by preparing for each session that you will interpret.

However, you will get to hear a lot of excellent talks and presentations if you choose the field that matters to you. Future career depends on you – you might become an in-house or freelance interpreter and own a business if you want!

But the real question is one that you have to answer for yourself: why do you want to become an interpreter?

Some people simply want to learn a specific foreign language, while others could be swept away by the idea that interpreters have to travel frequently. These are just a few examples, and of course, there are many other reasons to become an interpreter.

First of all, take some time to understand what you really want and need. If you want to learn a new language for fun, you don't have to become an interpreter just to do that. But do you like languages in general? In this case, you should get ready for the introductory classes on interpreting!

How much do language interpreters make?

Well, it depends on the type of interpretation and whether the audience needs a spoken or sign language interpretation. For instance, sign language interpreting is not widely available in the job market yet, so these specialists receive slightly higher salaries.

The average salary of medical interpreters, for example, is around $55000, and the salary of American Sign Language interpreters (ASL) is $62000 per year in the US.

What are the benefits of being an interpreter?

Of course, this job is not just about the money. You get to increase your knowledge while interpreting as you always listen to various presentations. You constantly gather additional information, improve your analytical, critical, and creativity skills.

Interpreters also change the ways their brain works. For example, the way we perceive and focus our attention can change after years of interpreting.

Depending on your workload, this might be both a benefit and a drawback, so always remember – work and life balance is very important!

What is required to be an interpreter?

Accurate and meaningful interpretation comes from a lot of experience, training, workshops, and participation in events of social and government agencies.

You need to know at least two languages fluently and acquire formal training. In general, you must finish a degree designed for interpreters and translators. Also, seek certification from various associations, such as the American Translators Association.

Further formal training helps you specialize in a topic of your choice, whether you want to become one of the travel interpreters and help visitors abroad or you wish to interpret in high-tech conferences.

If you want to pursue a career as one of the sign language interpreters, look for specific degrees that prepare, for example, American Sign language interpreters.

How to become an interpreter for the government?

Interpreters and translators who work for the government need job-specific training programs. They must go through many legal proceedings and other operations (e.g., working as one of the court interpreters or in other legal settings).

It would be best if you also had a deep cultural understanding. Cultural knowledge will provide you with critical thinking, empathy, and patience vital in the governmental sectors where many cultures work together.  

How to be a court interpreter?

Judiciary interpreters, also known as court interpreters, must specialize in legal interpreting. To become a registered court interpreter, you will need to take a written and an oral exam. Check the official website for a court in which you’d like to interpret, for example, California Courts, to learn more about it.

Are there other paths for interpreters?

Of course, there are many other paths for interpreters. You might ask, is a medical interpreter a good profession? Medical interpreting requires diverse medical terminology to master. Initially, you would spend a lot of time browsing these terminology databases to get to know the field.

Healthcare interpreters can also practice medical interpreting since they are closely related.

What is it like to be an interpreter?

We want to emphasize that interpreting is much more different than working as a translator whose primary material is written language. You don’t have the editorial responsibility as the content is not written, but how accurately you interpret matters a lot.

Imagine if court interpreters weren’t accurate and miscommunicated some of the critical facts. That would probably do a lot of damage, right? So choose a topic about which you feel the most confident. This will certainly help you to enjoy the job.

You should also understand that there are many sensitive topics, you have to get slang, jokes, and terminology to become a professional.

Overall, being an interpreter is a fantastic experience. Interpreters (and translators) work with loads of information. They get to understand the most complex scientific or cultural aspects of our world with their growing experience.

If you work as an American Sign language interpreter, you can also add accessibility factor to your mindset.

With this job, you constantly increase inclusivity, whether it is for people who have limited English proficiency, those who can’t travel and access different cultures and knowledge abroad, or those who have specific disabilities.

Now, when we have our most frequently asked questions answered, let’s move to another section of our guide to get into the world of interpretation. If you’re moving towards remote simultaneous interpretation, the tips below will help you uplift your career as a remote worker!

Top 8 tips by our experts

Interactio sat down with Andrius Dovydaitis, Customer Solutions Engineer, and Barry Olsen, Co-President of InterpretAmerica, LLC, and professional conference interpreter, to discuss the best tips for RSI newbies.

Here’s what we came up with:

Prevent tech failures with simple internet and audio checks right before the event

Understanding the characteristics of your working devices is crucial to the quality of the delivered sound. Start your journey as an RSI prof by identifying the download/upload speed of your Internet.

Don’t forget to set optimal audio settings for clear output and input sound. You should receive more recommendations on the settings from the RSI platform of your choice.

Dedicate a separate sound-isolated space for interpretation

As you try to organize your permanent place for simultaneous interpretation, remember to make it as comfortable as possible. Though an ideal solution would be working in a sound booth, you can create your own sound-isolated room at home.

Purchase special soundproofing textiles to install on the walls and under carpets. Always close curtains, windows, and doors.

For more information on soundproofing textiles, click here.

Don’t use your personal computer (PC) for interpretation

Having a dedicated machine for RSI will serve you well as most PCs are not strong enough to withstand loads of interpretation work. As you purchase a separate device, don’t forget to keep the operating system clean at all times, delete cache, and run preventative maintenance.

Forget about wireless connection – Ethernet cable is a way to go

If you can take away one thing about RSI, let it be this: Wi-FI connection is not 100% stable to provide uninterrupted audio and video streaming.

For a smooth flow, greater security, and reliability during remote interpretation, use an Ethernet cable. You will enjoy a faster data transfer and a consistent speed that is not subject to signal interference.

Order a dedicated Internet line instead of a shared connection

If we can guess, as most of the home users, you are subscribed to the shared Internet line. In other words, you share your bandwidth with all the other users of your Internet provider. While this can work perfectly fine for a usual household, it creates a handful of problems in a professional setting.

Slow upload and download speed and interrupted connection due to the hogged line are just a few of the unfortunate drawbacks of the shared line.

Luckily, there’s a cost-effective and safe solution – dedicated Internet access (DIA). DIA is a private connection between you and the web with no other subscribers using the same bandwidth.

Consistent, high download and upload speed regardless of environmental factors, and no competition with other users. We bet that sounds great.

To learn more about dedicated internet connection, click here.

Mediate between the laptop and stationary computer for convenience

It is preferable to have an external screen to alternate between the documents and video feed, maintaining a natural eye line. Whether it should be a laptop or a stationary computer is a question of your working conditions and preference.

On the one hand, a stationary computer is higher and easier to control, performing better per visual parameters and exhibiting higher processing power. On the other hand, laptops come in handy if you move between different locations.

Utilize USB headsets instead of analog

Having USB-type of playback headsets will save you nerves and time as you transition to remote interpretation. It is safe to troubleshoot and easy to determine any problems with connection, volume, and frequencies.

Also, remember that an integrated or built-in microphone is not designed for interpretation. While it won’t change your experience as an interpreter, it will certainly disturb the output audio of remote participants.

Define contractual responsibilities beforehand

Be in regular contact with your interpreter organization to determine the scope of your responsibilities. The good news is that you don’t have to be responsible for the setup. The organization can either assist you along the way or fully arrange it, as agreed.

Many platforms also assign technical support specialists to monitor the event during remote interpretation. This way, you only have to worry about the quality of your work with other variables overseen externally.

As a newbie, don’t hesitate to secure your rights, longing for safe, desirable, and cost-effective solutions.

Summing up

Transitioning to RSI or starting an interpreting career when the world turns online could be challenging, but with little support and recognition, you’re all set to conquer the new horizons!

As you see, it's highly important to find what works best for you and choose the right platform. RSI providers can help you receive additional training and continuous technical support. With the suitable ones, you will quickly observe your progress.

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Published on

Aug 7, 2020

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