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How to Build an Interpretation Career Out of Your Translation Skills

One of the best ways to increase your income is to diversify your skills. Doing so allows you to offer more services and reach more customers. A common way to diversify in the translation world is to offer interpretation services by using your translation skills. Below we’ll look at the differences between translation and interpretation, then consider the similarities in skills that each requires, as well as walking you through how you can offer both services.

What Is the Difference Between Interpretation and Translation?

An easy way to think of the main difference between the two is that translation is written and interpretation is spoken.

Translation involves taking text from one language and converting it into another. Interpreting is the process of orally transmitting what someone is saying in real-time.

Translation skills involve a deep understanding of the source language in its written form and knowledge of the background cultures of both the languages involved, which deepens the translator’s understanding of the text. Translators keep directories and other reference materials to assist in translation, so have strong technical skills. They have to meet deadlines and keep up on multiple projects, many of which may be long and involved.

Interpretation, meanwhile, involves perfect listening skills, strong face-to-face or phone communication skills, and the ability to translate verbally at the pace of a normal conversation. An interpreter usually requires a deep and flawless understanding of the topic discussed, including both culture and language, since no dictionaries can be used and there is no time to pause for thought during the interpretation process.

Moving from Translation to Interpretation

Interpretation and translation are two very different working processes. If you’re the type of person who likes to take things slow and double-check everything, the world of interpretation can be a culture shock, as you have to do everything in real-time.

You will need to carefully assess if the interpretation is for you. If you’re not a natural conversationalist and tend to trip up on words, have trouble thinking on your feet or feel like conversations move too quickly for you to translate in real-time, you may not want to pursue interpretation. That said, interpretation is a learned skill, so you may feel less intimidated after some time spent practicing.

If you already have the language skills and cultural knowledge in place thanks to your translation career, offering interpretation services can provide the opportunity to use those skills in a more conversational setting. Below we’ll look more in-depth at the similarities between the two fields and how you can transfer translation skills into the interpretation.

The Similarities Between Interpretation and Translation

As mentioned above, you have one main skill already in place if you want to expand from translation into interpretation: you already know at least two languages. That cuts out the bulk of the work right there.

If you’ve been translating for a while, you likely already know the cultural backgrounds of the languages you work in as well. You might even have industry experts if you focus on a certain type of translation, such as legal translation. Those two features are a must if you want to interpret conversation in real-time.

The main barrier to overcome, then, is how conversational you are in two languages at once. Will you be able to translate without accessing reference materials? Below we’ll give some tips on how to help you do just that.

How to Convert Your Skills from Translation to Interpretation

If you’ve never done interpretation work, take some time to look up videos that show you how to interpret. Many interpreter companies have videos online that show you how the process works.

You might want to look into getting certified as well. This may or may not be mandatory, depending on which country and industry you work in. Even if it’s not required, certification can help give your interpreter resume a boost, especially when you’re just starting out. Some interpreters also choose to get highly specialized education through college translation or interpretation programs.

Be sure to research any possible interpreter certifications for the industry you want to work in. The most common types of interpreters are court/legal, business, health care, immigration services, diplomatic and travel interpreters. There are various differences between these types of interpretation, meaning that slightly different skills are required for each.

There are several ways to practice interpreting at home. You can practice with friends, family, or colleagues, either in-person or through a video program like Skype. One trick is to use the news, speeches, podcasts or webinars, and simply verbally translate what you are hearing. You can play the recording slowly at first and speed it up as you gain more confidence. You may also want to record yourself as you interpret so that you can review errors and correct them.

Building an Interpreter Resume

While you can’t put “translated the news five days in a row” on your resume, there are ways to get the experience you need.

Building a resume is why it pays to consider taking courses or becoming certified in interpretation. It’s a way to show potential clients or employers that you’re not simply someone who knows a little bit about interpreting a language. For the same reason, it’s worth looking into joining professional translator associations, both general bodies and those related to your industry. 40% of hiring managers spend less than a minute looking at resumes, so it pays to make sure yours stands out.

To get started, you might also consider volunteering your interpreting services, once you become confident in them. You could also look into internships to get that important early experience. To find these opportunities, look for local volunteer opportunity websites or any government agency that provides language services, as well as translation and interpretation agencies.

While building a resume, also remember to still feature your translation background. Translation and interpretation are such closely related skills, that having a background in one will still help to give your resume a boost.

Essentially, you’re trying to round out your translation resume with new interpretation skills and experience. Once you build up the interpretation skills and work experience, you can broaden the type of clients or employers that you look for.

Both interpreting and translating are expected to grow by 19% in the US, which is must faster than average career growth. If you’ve already enjoyed success as a translator, perhaps interpretation services could be the next exciting step in your career path!

Author bio:
Ofer Tirosh is CEO of Tomedes, a language service provider delivering translation and interpretation services to clients around the world.

Published in July 2020.

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