So you want to be an... interpreter.
They convert spoken statements from one or more languages into another language to enable communication between people who do not share a common language.
There are two basic forms of interpreting - simultaneous and consecutive.
Simultaneous interpreting allows people to understand what someone is saying as they speak. It is normally used at major conferences where a translation service is available to delegates of different nationalities.
Consecutive interpreting involves the interpreter waiting for the speaker to pause allowing for translation into the target language. The interpreter repeats what has been said, but in the target language. This is often used at formal events such as court proceedings.
Interpreters specialise in either simultaneous or consecutive interpreting, although qualified interpreters may be expected to use both skills. They could work as: business interpreters - attending meetings with suppliers and foreign customers; court interpreters - working within the court system; public service interpreters - helping members of non-English language communities to communicate with public officials in local government, social security, the NHS and the police; sign interpreters - communicating with deaf people.
Hours and environment Employed interpreters normally work a 35-hour week. However, conferences may have to be extended to meet deadlines and public service interpreters may be expected to work at night and at weekends.
Places of work vary greatly. Long periods are spent in the confines of a booth looking out over a conference or meeting.
Those doing consecutive interpreting work in a room with the other people involved. Conference interpreting usually involves a great deal of travelling and meeting a variety of people often in social situations.
Public service interpreting may involve visiting and working in local government offices, hospitals, immigration centres, law courts, and prisons.
Advances in telecommunication technology and the increasing popularity of tele and video conferencing mean that interpreters often work using a telephone or microphone.
Skills and interests To be an interpreter you should: be fluent in one or more foreign languages; have a strong command of your mother tongue; understand the way other languages are used by native speakers; have excellent verbal communication skills; have knowledge of the field in which you are interpreting; have confidence when performing in public; be able to maintain intense concentration and think rapidly; have integrity and a sense of responsibility. Entry Most interpreters hold a degree in languages or in translation and interpreting.
Degrees normally require five GCSEs (A-C) grades (1-3) and two A levels/ three H grades.
A levels/H grades in a relevant foreign language and English may be required.
Interpreters often also hold postgraduate interpreting qualifications, and many live and work in another country to gain experience and learn about the culture.
An Access to higher education qualification may also be accepted for entry to certain courses.
If experienced in a related field, you may be able to gain recognition of skills through Accredited Prior Learning (APL).
Entry requirements for jobs vary, but most international organisations require two other languages besides English.
These have to be relevant to the work of the organisation.
Interpreters usually belong to professional organisations such as the Institute of Linguists (IOL), the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), or the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC).
Training National standards for interpreting and translating have been developed by the Languages National Training Organisation (LNTO). They also offer an NVQ/SVQ level four in interpreting which is suitable for people entering the profession after academic studies.
For the NVQ/SVQ level five in interpreting, candidates have to show that they are competent in a range of professional and language skills.
Candidates compile a portfolio of evidence, translated documents and recordings of interpreting in progress in the course of their normal work.
The Community Certificate and Advanced Certificate in Community Interpreting (Open College Network) qualification is available.
The Bilingual Skills Certificate is designed for people wishing to work in fields such as bilingual social work, education, welfare and health.
It gives confidence to public service users living in communities where English is the second language.
The course can also lead to external accreditation via the Institute of Linguists Certificate in Bilingual Skills. It is useful for entry onto a course leading to the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI).
The Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) is a one-year course which prepares students to be professional liaison interpreters in the field of public services such as law, health or local government. It is recognised by the Department of Education and Skills (DfES) and is set at approximately first-degree level in terms of the language skills required.
Successful candidates are eligible to apply for inclusion on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters and for membership of the Institute of Linguists. The standard of the examination is the equivalent of the occupational standards for interpreting (level four or five) as defined by the Languages National Training Organisation for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).
Annual income The annual income section is intended as a guideline only.
A recently qualified graduate interpreter at the European Commission could earn around pounds 35,000.
This rises by increments to pounds 50,000. On promotion to a higher grade interpreters could earn more than pounds 70,000.
Freelance interpreters can negotiate daily rates, ranging from pounds 250 to pounds 450 a day, depending on the clients or the skills required.
ON MESSAGE: Nicole Kidman starred as an interpreter in political thriller The Interpreter