Individuals who speak two or more languages have more than likely had thoughts of being an phone interpreter, but just being bilingual does not make you qualified to be an interpreter. Being able to make a conversation flow smoothly between two people who speak different languages as though you are not even there is just one critical quality you must possess. Being a successful interpreter really requires a combination of both skills and training.
Here are five qualities that a professional phone interpreter must possess:
1. A Phone Interpreter Must Have Knowledge
First and foremost, because phone interpreters have to switch between multiple languages in a limited amount of time, it is very important that they have extensive knowledge in the subject matter in which they are interpreting. Oftentimes the quickness of the conversation does not allow for the interpreter to refer to a dictionary or information database before interpreting, as they need to respond immediately. With this high level of required knowledge you’ll want to find an interpreter that speaks as well, if not better, than a native speaker.
One of the benefits of working with a language service provider is that they will have phone interpreters on staff with industry knowledge in a number of fields and disciplines. When you choose to work with a provider, they should always match you with the very best interpreters for your industry.
2. Cultural Competency
Besides having a good grasp and knowledge of the language, knowing the culture that corresponds to the language that is being interpreted can be extremely helpful. This ability gives the interpreter an advantage as they are able to detect certain nonverbal cues or customs that are specific to a particular language or country, in turn helping to avoid misunderstandings.
3. A Phone Interpreter has Active Listening Skills
During consecutive interpreting, interpreters only speak after the original speaker stops talking. Many experienced clients understand the importance of using short and simple sentences and pausing so the interpreter can relay the information efficiently. Other clients may speak quickly and without pauses; in these cases it is the phone interpreter’s job to listen carefully and then convey every single point communicated during the conversation. A professional interpreter will not interrupt the conversation or stop the flow of the interpretation unless clarification is needed.
If a phone interpreter holds a certification it shows that they are knowledgeable and committed to being the best interpreter possible. The process of getting a certification can be timely and costly but oftentimes when companies are recruiting for interpretation positions, they are looking to see if an interpreter is certified to ensure that they have knowledge or experience. Obtaining a certification often requires an interpreter to pass a written or oral exam showing that they have the skills capable of interpreting at a high level and that they exhibit all the qualities of a professional interpreter. Most language service providers require that the interpreters that they use have one or more local, state or national certifications.
5. Adherence to the Code of Ethics
Lastly, a professional phone interpreter should adhere to the Code of Ethics at all times. They must also make sure that they have the integrity to strictly abide by the confidentiality standards outlined in the Code, as subject matter discussed during interpretation may be sensitive, and should always be held in confidence by the interpreter. In addition the interpreter should remain objective and not communicate their own opinion at any point in the conversation.
While this is not an exhaustive list of qualities to look for when searching for a professional phone interpreter, if you find an interpreter with at least all of these five qualities you can be certain that you will be getting an interpreter capable of providing a high level of service.
Chrystal Mosley, Interpreter Relations Manager
Chrystal Mosley has been with Language Link for nine years, and is our Interpreter Relations Manager. It is her responsibility to ensure that all interpreters meet Language Link’s strict requirements for experience and certification, and that they abide by the Code of Ethics for interpreters at all times. Chrystal has a master’s degree in business administration.
About Language Link
At Language Link, we excel at helping our clients with their Over-the-Phone Interpretation needs. Headquartered in Vancouver, Washington and incorporated in 1991, Language Link has more than 27 years of experience as a full-service multilingual communication agency. We have highly qualified phone interpreters working in over 240 languages and dialects with experience across a multitude of industries. Our interpreters pride themselves on their active listening abilities and cultural competency. Language Link is proud to be both HIPAA and HITECH compliant.