A professional interpreter is more than just bilingual.
Have you ever needed an interpreter and considered a bilingual acquaintance?
Maybe your best friend has known Spanish since he was young, or your sister studied French in high school, college and abroad.
Whatever the case may be, if someone is fluent in two languages, they should be a good interpreter, right?
Actually, being a good interpreter means a lot more than just being bilingual. And if your bilingual friend is honest with you, they’ll probably recognize that they don’t have the skills — or specific vocabulary — to interpret in medical or legal matters. It is in your best interest to hire a professional interpreter, since successful interpreting requires a lot of specific skills.
A professional interpreter:
1. Must Have an Immediate Understanding of Both Languages
The interpreter must be truly bilingual, not just somewhat fluent. There is no time to look up a word in the dictionary or ask the speaker what they meant.
There also isn’t always time to weigh the merits of other possible phrases or words. In a small setting, bilingual interpreters may be able to ask the speakers to clarify what they are saying.
But in many cases — like court cases — if the interpreter tries to think of the most precise or poetic way to interpret the beginning of the speaker’s sentence, they could lose the speaker’s next few words or even miss an entire thought.
2. Must Have Subject Area Expertise
Being bilingual doesn’t necessarily mean that a person knows specialized vocabulary. If an interpreter is hired for a trial but has no knowledge of legal terminology or phrasing, it could be very difficult to convey exactly what is happening in the courtroom, which could have detrimental results.
Bilingual interpreters must have some knowledge of the subject area. Only then can they convey what the speaker means without embellishing or omitting important details. A good interpreter can fully understand the thought coming from the speaker and explain it using the resources of another language.
3. Must Be Culturally & Professionally Aware
Simply being bilingual doesn’t guarantee that a person knows anything about the culture or society of the country in which their second language originates. A good interpreter is aware of the cultural expressions and actions that can potentially serve as bridges or barriers to good communication.
A good interpreter also knows the appropriate conduct of his or her surroundings. The courtroom interpreter, then, would dress appropriately and be familiar with legal protocol.
Being bilingual is obviously an excellent foundation — even a prerequisite! — for an interpreter. But the skills needed for situations that require interpreters go above and beyond just the basic knowledge of a couple of languages.
For expert interpretation services you can trust, contact the professionals at Legal Language.