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6 key qualities of a good interpreter

By Hilary Picken | January 10, 2019 | Top Tens Translation Tips

6 key qualities of a good interpreter

While translation is rendering written text from a source language into a target language, interpreting is essentially a spoken form of translation, which allows real-time verbal translation to occur in settings where two or more people need to communicate their conversations.

This may be face-to-face or over the telephone and involves the interpreter translating what was said in one language into another so that the correspondence is understood by both parties.

Good interpretation is more than just having a good grasp of language. Here at The Language Factory, a translation services company, we recognise that to be a good interpreter, the following 6 attributes are a must:

Be an extremely good listener

Interpreters need to pick up on every word, every intent and every meaning. They must make sense of a message composed in one language while simultaneously constructing and articulating the same message in another tongue.

Have excellent sensory, motor and cognitive skills

All of these skills need to work in unison to ensure that not only language, but all nuances and idioms are picked up on and relayed in a comprehensible way, all in the blink of an eye!

Have an extensive vocabulary of multiple languages

Because interpreters are working in real-time, they can rarely consult a trusted dictionary or reference materials. Therefore, good interpreters will have to have a very good knowledge of the subject-matter and the language and abbreviations or jargon associated with the subject.

Be culturally aware

Just as specialist subject knowledge is very important, interpreters must also be aware of the culture of the languages they are interpreting from and into. If a political reference is made in one language, for example, a good interpreter will be ready to transform this into a comparable statement that the target audience can understand.

Cope with stress and self-control when dealing with difficult speakers

Not everyone speaks with precision and clarity and of course accents can be difficult to discern. Interpreters therefore need to keep their cool and remain relaxed, even in seemingly tough situations.

Show emotional resilience

Legal and medical interpreters are often involved in cases that are high-profile or difficult to witness, such as murder trials, emergency medical situations or even deaths. In such instances, they have to show high levels of resilience and control with the people they are there to represent.