With Every Skill There Are Levels of Proficiency:

Being bilingual sets you apart from most people, allowing you to express yourself across multiple languages and cultures, which is an invaluable skill in our globalized world. Perhaps you grew up in a household where you were taught two languages and you’ve been bilingual for as long as you can remember or maybe you fell in love with a language and pursued immersion and a higher education that has equipped you with fluency. However you got to the point of being bilingual, the skill is impressive and one that should be coveted. With all skills there are levels of proficiency, playing football on the weekends is different than playing football for the NFL. The same goes for language skills, “How to Guide: Becoming a Professional Interpreter,”  explains how this linguistic discipline takes immense skill, training, aptitude, extensive language knowledge and lifelong learning in order to provide accurate interpretation services for those who need it. Being bilingual and having the skills necessary to work as a professional interpreter are two very different ends of the spectrum when it comes to language skill proficiency.

Being Bilingual:

Considering yourself to be bilingual can have many different meanings, in general, people who are bilingual are able to converse with native speakers easily regarding everyday conversations, events or topics. You probably couldn’t read and recite a medical manual explaining how to reconstruct a knee using a newly formulated method, but you could definitely order dinner or carry on a meaningful conversation with a native speaker. You’re more than likely aware of standard vocabulary and sentence structure, but advanced terminology may have you talking around words you can’t find or don’t know. People who are bilingual are able to understand and be understood in both languages they speak.

The Skills of a Professional Interpreter:

To be an interpreter requires an individual who is highly skilled in an abundance of areas spanning across at least two languages. Listening carefully, digesting and comprehending information provided in the source language, memorizing it, deciding how to interpret the information accurately in the target language and then articulating it, is what’s happening in an interpreter’s brain during an actual interpretation session. Cultivating this level of proficiency takes years of experience and dedication and in most instances, immersion in the country of the second language spoken. Interpreters are trained to understand concepts, nuances of terms and cultural references as well as professional terminology. In turn they’re able to accurately convey everything said from the source language into the target language, seamlessly and in a timely fashion. An interpreter’s skill set in a language goes well beyond a person who is bilingual. Interpreters are very versed in the languages they speak and their understanding is comparable to a college educated native speaker. Knowing all the ins and outs of a language, the subtleties, idioms, jokes as well as the historical and current cultural influences, allow interpreters to really be in the know regarding the language they interpret for, thus producing pristine interpretations.

Interpreters Are Trained Far Beyond Just Knowing a Language:

Interpreters not only pay attention to what you say, but they also pay attention to how you say it. Being trained on how to pick up on body language and facial expressions aid interpreters in gathering all the information necessary in order to produce an interpretation with precision. Interpreters often times prepare for interpretations by reviewing provided content and further researching the topic to ensure they’re up to par and can easily understand the content and context of the subject being discussed. An interpreter has to also possess exceptional public speaking skills and display confidence while interpreting. They often have to interpret in front of groups of people or large audiences and this cannot in any manner affect the accuracy of the interpretation. Compartmentalizing feelings, emotions and opinions must be mastered in order to work as a professional interpreter. An interpreter’s main goal is to provide a voice for individuals who can’t speak English, it’s their job to ensure that that voice is heard accurately, void of any outside interference. “The Skills and Qualities Needed to be a Simultaneous Interpreter,”  describes how difficult the art of interpretation is, lists the skills necessary to be a simultaneous interpreter, and explains just how intricate the work can be to complete. Being bilingual is definitely the foundation of becoming an interpreter, however interpreting requires more refined linguistic skills. Interpreters are expected to keep up with the conversation regardless of the topic because there isn’t time for stopping and wondering how to formulate sentences. Not knowing the language fully, takes away from the interpretation and can cause vital information to be missed, compromising the whole session. 

Interpreters Are Versed in Various Industries and Are Culturally Aware:

Most interpreters are trained or have more experience interpreting for specific industries. There’re medical interpreters, legal interpreters, interpreters who work solely with children or in mental health facilities, the list goes on and on. When you hire a language service provider, they pair you with an interpreter that best fits your needs. Having a significant amount of experience in a particular industry helps the interpreter better understand the jargon, ideas and industry terminology used, which in turn makes for a better interpretation. Cultural awareness is also a skill that an interpreter must possess, there has to be a certain level of understanding of the culture, society and the people that speak that language in order to interpret for it. Understanding local expressions and nuances all come into play when interpreting one language into another.

Simply having the ability to speak two or more languages does not make you capable of producing a professional interpretation. Interpretation services are heavily relied on in many industries and it’s imperative that the service not be taken lightly, “Interpretation Services Provided by Children and Family Members,” displays the downfalls and potential disasters that can happen if an unqualified individual is used to provide interpretation services. Being bilingual is a wonderful skill to have, however it doesn’t allow you to provide people with the best possible interpretation service and care available. Most interpreters are highly educated individuals and have worked hard to obtain the language  skills required to work in the field. Bilingualism is a prerequisite to the art of interpretation but many skills and qualities need to be built upon in order for you to call yourself a professional interpreter.

Niki’s Int’l Ltd. is a WBENC-Certified Women Business Enterprise with 21 years of language service experience. A global network of highly skilled interpreters and translators are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for on-site, telephonic and video remote interpretation services. Our linguists are available in over 350 languages and dialects, and our network includes certified interpreters and translators. Our work is guaranteed with a $1 Million Errors & Omissions policy, so that you can be confident that your project will be completed with the highest level of quality and professionalism within the field. For more information contact us at 1-877-567-8449 or visit our website at

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