You might have encountered the term “conference interpreter.” However, you might only have a vague idea of what the job entails. Are you curious? Do you want to be one? Are you interested in working with languages? Are you interested to work with different cultures?
A conference interpreter is a specialist that bridges the gap in multilingual settings, so that the rest of the conference attendees will understand speakers of other languages. The job is not limited to conferences; the service is utilized for press conferences, annual meetings, committee and board meetings, training sessions, sales meetings and conventions conducted by public and private entities, where multilingual participation is present.
What the job of a conference interpreter entails
The work of a conference interpreter is one that demands the highest skills and professionalism. It takes great skill and facility with the source (original language) and the target language, as the interpreter does not only parrot what is being said but also converts the ideas as idiomatically and smoothly as possible while preserving the nuances, tone and meaning the speaker wants to convey.
There are three types of conference interpreting – consecutive interpreting, simultaneous interpreting and whispering or chuchotage
In consecutive interpretation, the interpreter is in the same room as the conference participants and listening to what the speaker says, taking notes if needed and during pauses by the speaker will convey the same message from one language to another. Simultaneous interpretation on the other hand means that the interpreters works as a team in a soundproof booth and take turns to convey the speaker’s ideas from one language to another in real time as the audience listens to the interpretation via headsets. The other form is called whispering or chuchotage. In this case, the interpreter is also in the same room as the participants and provides whispered interpretation in real time.
If the above have aroused your curiosity, here are the knowledge requirements:
Complete mastery of the active or target languages as well as an in-depth knowledge of the source or passive languages is a must. You need a university degree or equivalent, a sound understanding and general knowledge of current affairs and possess the aptitudes required by the job, which includes the following:
- Intuition and the ability to construe and analyze facts
- Speedy reaction and the ability to adapt immediately to the speakers, subjects and situations
- Ability to concentrate and focus
- Above-average nervous and physical staying power
- Public speaking skills, pleasant voice
- Possess intellectual curiosity to a high-degree
- Intellectual integrity
- Diplomacy and tact
You should also consider being familiar with the culture of the countries where the languages you specialize in are spoken. A good sense of humor is also needed.
However, the job may not be yours right after graduation. Enough experience and proper preparation are key to being a very good conference interpreter. Opt for graduate training programs instead of undergraduate programs to have a solid command of the combination languages, and focus on the acquisition of skills and advanced language enhancements. It will be of great benefit to you to work, live or study in the countries where the languages that interest you are spoken even before you apply for a training program. This is because your familiarity with the cultural context will greatly influence your expression and understanding of the languages. Conference interpreting is a profession where age and broad experience aside from an excellent command of the languages is highly favorable to you.
Bernardine Racoma writes for Day Translations, a global translations and interpreting services provider with headquarters in Tampa, Florida, US, and offices worldwide. Its dedicated team of specialized and trained certified translators and interpreters are available 24/7 around the world to satisfy their customers’ translation and interpreting needs.