Essentially, an interpreter conveys the meaning of a speaker’s message orally and in another language to listeners who would not otherwise understand. So, an interpreter helps people who don’t speak the same language talk to each other, it is true. An interpreter bridges language barriers every day, also true. But, what is it like to be a professional interpreter?

We asked one of our interpreters, Laura, who has been interpreting for almost ten years, to give us an idea of what conference professional interpreters do for a living.

Do you have a certain area of specialization, or do you work on generic translation projects of many types, Laura?  

A professional interpreter can take on all the different roles. It all depends on their initial situation, their background and training. Interpreters usually specialize in and work with two languages, their mother tongue and any other chosen language. However, they may also specialize in and work with a third or even a fourth language. For example, I am a conference interpreter and specialized translator for German, English and French, and I specialize in politics, business and economics, tourism.

What skills and qualifications are needed to be an interpreter?

Being an interpreter is a demanding job: it needs experience, ability, discipline.

The interpreter has to be a good listener: he or she needs the ability to comprehend accurately and quickly what is said in working languages, including idioms, colloquialism, metaphors in conversation, terms or phrases that have a second, implied, and meaning.

Excellent concentration and the ability to think quickly are also essential.

All jobs are demanding at times, and my job is demanding, it is true. But I love it, including its challenges!

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For example? What are the biggest challenges in interpreting?

Interpreting in real-time can be stressful because you will have to keep up with the speaker. I spend most of the day in a glassed-in booth listening trough a headset and talking into a microphone!

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