What Makes a Prepared Interpreter

Interpreting is challenging and fun, but it’s also a profession and something to take seriously. Not only do we want to present ourselves as a professional, we also want others to see us as one.

A professional interpreter strives to be as prepared as he can be. When he receives an assignment, he tries to get as much information as he can about the assignment, and makes sure he prepares for it by reviewing his terminology. However, because access to appointment details isn’t always available, keeping up with terminology and language skills is a nonstop process for interpreters.

But wait, preparation isn’t just about the behind-the scene work of reviewing terminology and researching on the topic, it’s as important to prepare for the whole session, and I’ve put together some tips to help you prepare for your next gig. Share some of your tips and tricks if you think of anything else as well!

Map it. Make sure you plan your route and know where you’re going, where you’re meeting, and leave for the appointment with sufficient lead time so that traffic doesn’t become an issue for your arrival time.

Dress Professionally. Even though you don’t have a boss looking over your shoulders, business attire will show that you take your job seriously. When you’re dressed professionally, you feel more confident, people will also give you more credibility.

Arrive Early. Arriving at least 10 minutes before the appointment will allow you enough time to acquaint yourself to your surroundings. For appointments in large hospitals or courts, interpreters are often asked to check in to get a visitor’s badge, so make sure to account that into your commute as well.

Explain Your Role. Not every client will have experience working with an interpreter. While it may seem intrusive to give the client a short info session about who you are and what your role is, the 20-second explanation will benefit the communication between your clients and make your job easier. Explain that you will interpret everything that is said. Also ask the speakers to speak directly to each other, and kindly request that they use short sentences so that you can accurately convey the entire message.

Remember Your Code of Ethics. Stay true to the message and interpret everything that is said, without omissions, additions, or alterations of the message.

Ask for Clarification. We want to make sure that we are communicating everything that is said. It’s okay to not understand a phrase, and it’s okay to ask for clarification or rephrasing, particularly in a consecutive interpreting session (medical interpreting).

Be Confident and Have Fun with it. You’ve done your homework, did your training, and got that gig. Now be confident that you can do this and that you’re going to be amazing. Interpreting is work, but it should be fun, too. That’s why we’re doing it, right?

Good luck!

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