All You Need to Know About Bilingualism and Interpreting

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Anyone who is lucky to be bilingual has great advantages compared to those who are not. It is an invaluable skill in today’s globalised world, allowing the chance to communicate in a different language with people who may sometimes have an entirely different culture. Some people become bilingual just by chance because they were born into a family whose parents spoke their mother tongue as well as the language of the country they have chosen to move to. There are others who are determined to become bilingual and work hard to reach this goal by completing language courses at university and colleges. 

Being bilingual is no doubt a great skill to have, but using it to become a professional Interpreter is not as simple as just being bilingual. Accurate interpreting requires linguistic discipline and necessitates the aptitude to take on the challenge. It also requires the following:

  • Immense skill
  • Extensive knowledge of the language
  • Lots of training
  • Ultimately, lifelong learning, so as to provide accurate interpretation services for those who need it. 

In fact, being bilingual while also possessing the skills needed to earn a living as a professional interpreter requires different skills when it comes to language skills and proficiency. There is no comparison when looking at the skills of someone who is bilingual and somebody who is a skilled interpreter.

Anyone who considers themselves to be bilingual can mean different things. Typically, being bilingual means at a minimum you should be able to communicate freely in day to day conversations. However, you may find it a bit more challenging if you were asked to translate a thesis about some new medical research into COVID-19. Most people who consider they are bilingual means they have a good working knowledge of correct vocabulary use and sentence structure and can be understood easily in the two languages. 

Skills of a Professional Interpreter

An interpreter’s set of skills goes far beyond those of a bilingual. They need to be highly skilled in several areas of the two languages which include the following:

  • Listening carefully
  • Comprehending and digesting information presented in the base language
  • Memorizing
  • Deciding just how to accurately interpret the facts required in the targeted language and then explaining them to the targeted audience.

Reaching the proficiency required to be an accurate interpreter takes many years of dedicated learning coupled with vast experience interpreting. Quite often, an interpreter will have accumulated language know by becoming completely immersed in the culture where their second language is spoken. Interpreters need to learn to comprehend concepts, cultural references, nuances of the usages of many terms including professional terminology. Overall, the interpreter should be able to convey accurately everything that has been spoken in the source language into the targeted language quickly and with little effort. 

Interpreters are widely versed in their two languages and their understanding is at least equivalent to a native speaker who is university educated. Being completely at home with all the finer points of a language, its subtleties, its idioms, its jokes along with its historical and present cultural influence allows an interpreter to know everything there is to know about the language they consider themselves competent to interpret so they can produce perfect interpretations.

An Interpreter is Trained far more than simply knowing the Language

An interpreter must also have flawless skills in public speaking and show complete confidence when interpreting before large groups where accuracy is the most important outcome. One of the main goals of an interpreter is to provide another voice for those who are unable to communicate in the language needed at the time. Interpreters cannot just pause in the middle of interpreting while pondering over what words to use but they must interpret spontaneously. 

There is little doubt that being bilingual can be a firm foundation for learning to become an interpreter but to be successful in the field of interpreting requires exceptional dedication that ends up in perfection. 

Translation and interpreting services will have interpreters who have specialised in a variety of fields including:

  • Medical
  • Legal
  • Mental health
  • Business
  • Education
  • Children

When you need an interpreter the translation and interpreting agency will match you with the best available interpreter in the field you need an interpreter.

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