Become a Successful Conference Interpreter
Set your sites high... UN, NATO , many are the organisations that have a use for interpreters. There are two main types of interpreting, Consecutive (which gives you the chance to make notes) and Simultaneous (you hear the source language and speak the target language...simultaneously!
Before looking at how to find a job as an interpreter, it is important to carefully consider what kind of training you are going to have. Training is of vital importance and cannot be ‘skipped’. A university education in Interpreting will prepare you with essential skills and provide you with state of the art equipment with which you can hone the art of interpreting.
You will also have access to experienced lecturers and professors who will be able to help you understand the steps you need to take. One of these will be to create your own shorthand:
If you do not know official shorthand there is nothing stopping you from working on your own version of shorthand. For example, putting a circle instead of putting '~tion' or '~sion' will save you a substantial amount of time when you add it all up at the end of a long conference day! Other symbols can be used which serve as ciphers to represent words like over, under, in, on... you can represent all of these with a line or curve, ‘@’ could represent at, around or about. The main thing is that you can understand what you have written when you look back in context.
Of course this only applies to Consecutive Interpreting, not Simultaneous Interpreting. With Simultaneous Interpreting you will need to process what you are listening to and speak at the same time! Obvious as this may seem, it does take considerable skill and practise which is again why good preparation and a good education with good resources and facilities become essential.
Having been an interpreter in French conferences I have learnt one or two points on how to do this successfully.
Firstly I would advise carefully researching the specific lexicon of the area your conference is in. You should learn all the key terms by heart before you even get near to the conference. As you are interpreting there will be no time to go and look something up... this is a different ball game to translation, so you need to lay down this preparation work.
Build up your own vocabulary notes, contact others (on proZ for example!) who specialise in those areas and ask them for advice. I found it was also useful to read articles from previous conferences as it gave me the correct professional turn of phrase that I needed.
Start small is my advice: If you have connections, use them. Whether it is something you organise yourself, or initiate amongst friends, if you can be involved in some way with the organisation of a conference, however small, you can then start to build a portfolio/ curriculum of experience, gain real life experience and build up people who will write you a reference. For example, I did my first conference with YWAM, an international organisation. I did this for FREE! No bad thing as it meant I built up experience and had a safe (i.e. no one could fire me) environment to learn in. I did well and was asked if I would be interested in working full time as an interpreter for them. Continue to gain work and see if you can keep your qualification current. Search online for ‘Interpreting Agencies’ these are agencies which will find work for you but first you will have to take various tests in order to pass their registration criteria. It will be worth the time and even if you do not succeed in registering with your first agency test, it will prepare you and improve your chances of registering successfully with your next attempt. Agency Central is an excellent site for finding an Interpreting Agency that is suited to a particular industry
If you have any comments or suggestions or requests regarding this article please let me know and I will respond to them/ edit the article.
Article by ignite submitted to proZ.com 2010