- Interpreters provide real-time translation for people who don't understand each other's language
- Part-time and contract work is common in this field, and many interpreters are freelancers
- Conference interpreting usually involves a lot of travelling
As an interpreter, you will specialise into one of three areas: conference interpreting, consecutive interpreting, or public service interpreting.
In conference interpreting, you'll:
- Work at national and international conferences, lectures and meetings
- Sit in a soundproof booth listening to the speaker through headphones
- Interpret speeches at the same time as the speaker
- Pass on the interpreted version through headsets
In consecutive interpreting, you'll:
- Work at smaller business meetings with 2 or more people
- Interpret after each sentence or passage of speech
In public service interpreting, you'll:
- Interpret for people using legal, health and local government services
- Check their understanding after each sentence
- Need to be available at short notice for emergency medical or police interviews
You could be based at a client's business, at a conference centre, in an office, at a police station, in a court, in a prison, or in an NHS or private hospital. You'll be travelling often and work might be emotionally demanding at times.
For this role, you'll need foreign language skills, knowledge of English language, thoroughness and attention to detail, customer service skills, patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations, to be able to accept criticism and work well under pressure, as well as be able to work on your own and have the flexibility to be open to change.
You should be able to communicate quickly, smoothly and accurately; know and understand informal speech, slang and regional differences; and understand the culture of the country or countries where the language is spoken.
You can do a degree or postgraduate qualification in interpreting studies, languages and interpreting, or translation and interpreting.
Voluntary or paid work through councils or other organisations offering community interpreting services might be beneficial to help get you into this job. A community interpreting qualification will also help you get work in the community.
Direct application is possible if you have a non-language degree, providing you are fluent in both English and a second language.
You can take a Chartered Institute of Linguists course like the Certificate in Bilingual Skills or the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting to help you get a job in public service interpreting.
With progression and experience, you could become a member of a professional association like CIOL, Institute of Translation and Interpreting, or the International Association of Conference Interpreters. You could join the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) if you're working in the public sector. You could also combine interpreting with translating or teaching, or move into management.