Working as an interpreter is a courageous choice. In reality, it’s an incredibly stimulating profession and often involves learning new things, meeting people from all walks of life and forging professional relationships with individuals, companies and institutions.
In the face of this, interpreters must possess numerous skills, such as a capacity for concentration, diplomacy and keeping a cool head. In addition to possessing a few natural gifts, such as knowing your mother tongue and at least one foreign language inside out, interpreters also have to acquire specific skills to allow them to deal effectively with different work situations.
But how do you go about acquiring the specialist knowledge needed to become an interpreter? And what are the most common and coveted job opportunities in the sector?
Interpreter training courses, which one should you take?
To work as an interpreter you need to have a degree. The most common and suitable study path involves getting a Bachelor’s degree in languages followed by a Master’s degree in Translation or Interpreting Studies. In general, these qualifications constitute an important pre-requisite when applying for jobs.
It might also be worth considering participating in the Erasmus exchange programme in order to learn more about the social and cultural context of your chosen language.
Spending time abroad is a good way to learn about the linguistic nuances employed by native speakers. It’s also a great opportunity to familiarise yourself with idiomatic expressions (a source of both joy and torment for interpreters), and will also allow you to learn how people behave in specific cultures. Familiarity with behavioural norms is vital for interpreters to create harmony with clients and speakers.
Professional job opportunities for interpreters
One of the benefits of working as a freelance interpreter is the option to work with a range of different companies, individuals and institutions. However, if you choose to work for a specific institution, such as an embassy, you’ll also get the opportunity to work as a cultural mediator between the expat community and local residents.
Another interesting option is working in a court. If you choose to go down this route, it might be useful to have some knowledge of the legal language and judicial system under your belt, in order to manage communication when it (inevitably) focuses on issues of an technical or bureaucratic nature. It’s worth pointing out that universities don’t tend to offer specific legal interpreting courses, meaning that you’ll have to use your own initiative to acquire the necessary knowledge.
Interpreters are often also needed at police stations to facilitate communication between foreign citizens and law enforcement.
How to become an interpreter in the legal field?
Becoming an interpreter for the legal system or the police requires you to join a professional association after graduating. In order to join an association in Italy, you will need to pass an exam at the Chamber of Commerce. In addition to working as an interpreter, you can also work as a sworn translator and translate documents (and recorded phone calls) used by law enforcement officers during criminal proceedings. To do this in Italy, you need to prove you have been working as an interpreter for at least three years and also have to take an additional exam to be enrolled in Italy’s Register of Sworn Translators and Interpreters.