How to become an interpreter

Updated February 21, 2017

An interpreter works with spoken language. A translator works with written language. The jobs are actually quite different as are the skills required to do them. A translator may not even be completely bilingual because most translators work only from their second language to their native. But an interpreter must be able to instantaneously translate both ways. As the concept of a global economy and a worldwide village become a reality, interpreters are in an ever-increasing demand.

Begin by cultivating any bilingual family background. Many interpreters come from families where 2 languages were spoken.

Work hard in high school in English composition, foreign languages and computer skills. Consider spending some time as an exchange student.

Obtain a bachelor's degree. Majoring in a foreign language is not necessary, but a specific course in one of the various types of interpretation can be career enhancing. There are 2 general forms of interpretation-consecutive and simultaneous. Beyond these formats, conference interpreters may specialize in technical or scientific areas. Interpretation courses are offered at a number of colleges and universities.

Consider going on to get a master's degree if you plan to work in a highly specialized field of interpretation.

Consider becoming certified. While there are no standard forms of certification, the American Translator's Association, the Translators and Interpreters Guild and Federal courts have certification programs in a number of languages, including those of Native Americans. The U.S. Department of State also has a 3 test series of examinations.

Use an in-house translation job for a corporation or business as a jumping off point for your career. At all levels of training and work experience, network with other interpreters and their employers. Given the personal nature of interpretation, individual recommendations often carry significant weight.

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