Becoming an interpreter

Several days ago I was contacted by a girl named Diana, who is studing to become an interpreter and translator. She asked me if I had a specific method of learning English and what I had done in order to become an interpreter. So instead of sending her back an email I decided to put my thoughts into an article, hoping that this might be somehow useful for other students.

So, Diana, here are my answers to your questions: first of all, I don’t have any specific methods of learning English, no secrets, trust me. But there are some things that I could recommend you.

Most important- read a lot. And not only in English. In order to become a really good interpreter, you should be in command of at least two languages: foreign and native one. So while studying English, don’t forget about Russian (or about Kazakh). You should be able of speaking very smoothly, without words such „well“, „errr..“, „you know.. “, you should know many synonyms, so if one word doesn’t come up easily to your mind, you have 3 or 5 others of the same meaning. Grammar and spelling should always be paid attention to, in both languages again. The easiest way, in my opinion, is to achieve it by reading. You don’t have to go for classics, if it makes you yawn. Find something that you can really enjoy reading. I was lucky to discover the author Nicholas Sparks, when I read his books, I never look up words, firstly because it distracts and secondly because of his style that helps you understand every single word with the help of context.

Another way of learning a language is by watching TV in that specific language. Just rent a DVD in English, watch it with subtitles first if it’s hard for you to get what they say. Then watch it again, without subtitles. Take another movie. And so on. I don’t have enough time for TV, so I listen to the radio while doing other things. That helps a lot: not only can you pick up new words, you can also improve your pronunciation. Moreover, sometimes they have really interesting programmes about science or medicine or something else. That’s also helpful, because you never know what kind of information you will need tomorrow as a translator/interpreter.

Then comes the difficult part: you should speak. Without that you will not become an interpreter. I know that it’s very hard at the beginning and you think to yourself „Oh my God, I make so many mistakes, I don’t want to be embarrased! “Guess what? Many people make mistakes, even professionals, even natives,but noone dies because of that. Once you’ve overcome yourself, you will be surprised at how many words you actually know and how fast you can speak. Nowadays with the Internet being our second nature, there is no problem in finding a native English speaker. You can use Skype, Facebook, My Space or whatever else is available on the Internet.

As an interpreter you also need a very good memory. Very good. If you have one, you are lucky, if you don’t- then you should train yourself. It’s not easy, but it’s do-able.

I guess, I can talk about being/becoming an interpreter for ages because I do love my job and I encourage other people to enjoy this profession. At the end I would also like to suggest you trying to translate/interpret while being a student. It gives you confidence later, as well as experience. And even if you make a mistake, it will not hurt your self-estimation as much as it would if you are a graduate already. In other words: don’t be afraid, just do it!

Dear Diana, I hope that helps you a little. Feel free to ask me more questions!

Posted on March 11th, 2010
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2 Comments a “Becoming an interpreter”

  1. Liliya says:

    Thank u for your incentive article. But you know it is really difficult to find practice for free, I mean I would like to translate but employer seeks only professionals and will not trust me due to lack of my experience

  2. admin says:

    This should not let you down. Every professional was at some point just a graduate student with no experience whatsoever.

    As far as I am concerned, universities should provide students with places of internship – a so-called “praktika” in Russian. Don’t you gain experience while being an intern? Of course you do!

    After all, if one door doesn’t open in front of you, you knock at the others.

    Feel free to ask questions or submit more comments!

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