A bi-lingual interpreter, not to be confused with a bilingual translator who works with written documents, takes speech in one language and converts it into another. Bi-lingual suggests that the interpreter is equally comfortable in both languages.
What Does an Interpreter Do?
An interpreter works anywhere that a bridge between two languages is needed. It can be in court, where a defendant cannot speak English and needs an interpreter to have fair representation. It can be in a hospital where the doctor needs info from a patient who only speaks a foreign language. It can be in a company that deals with clients outside of the country. Of course you can also use your interpretation skills in the military. These are only a few of the many possibilities.
Do You Need Certification?
It is not necessary for you to be certified to get a job as an interpreter. Many organizations and companies simply require someone who can speak both languages to be their bilingual interpreter.
Why Get Certified
While you can get a job as a bilingual interpreter without certification, the better jobs require not only ability to interpret, but also education, training, practice and an exam. This rigorous background leads eventually to certification.
Education and Training
There are many different certifications you can get as a bilingual interpreter. Court interpreter is one. Often times the court system itself will offer courses which eventually help you pass an examination and get your certification. The American Translators Association (ATA) can provide you with a list of educational resources. These include prestigious universities such as Georgetown and George Mason in and near Washington, D.C. After meeting their requirements, you can then apply for an ATA certification.
Getting a Job
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic predicts an increase in jobs of 22 percent between 2008 and 2018. This is higher than expectations for most jobs. The median wage in 2008 was close to $30,000 while some government interpreters earned more than $80,000.
Keeping Your Job
Once you get certified and find a job, you then have to worry about keeping that job. Of course the primary necessity is to have the language skills. You will also, however, need to be well organized and be able to take notes at the same time your are listening and interpreting. Your interpersonal skills also must be honed. To create a fluid flow in a conversation, there must be no hint of condescension or superiority.
Les Belzer has been a professor, entrepreneur, farm owner and writer since 1968. He has written in-house articles on education, mathematics and Spanish literature. Since 1999 he has written travel articles for Escapeartist and "International Living." Belzer holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish literature from Idaho State University and a Master of Science in math from the Universidad Mayor de San Simon.