How do I become an Interpreter?

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In addition to “How do I become a certified interpreter?“, another frequently asked question that we receive is “How do I start as an interpreter?”.

The answer to that question is: ” It depends.”

There is no template for becoming an interpreter because interpreters get their starts in different ways. As a result, how you become an interpreter depends entirely on your personal circumstances and choices.  To give a better idea of how there are different paths to becoming an interpreter, we asked a few of our instructors tell us how they began their interpreting careers:

“I became an interpreter in late 2002 when I came across a volunteer interpreting program at a major academic medical center. I received a 53-hour medical interpreter training sponsored by the hospital covering interpreting skills and medical terminology. Two years later, I was hired as full-time interpreter.

Training and experience are two essential skills needed to become a Certified Medical or Healthcare Interpreter. For those lacking interpreting experience, I recommend looking into volunteer or internship opportunities.”

– George Narvaez, Spanish CHI & CMI

“Having had a background in the medical field, interest in offering interpreting services to hospitals and clinics was the first area to come to mind. This was the easiest to get into by volunteering, and it offered a way to be able to advocate for the NES patient. Subsequently, I read an article in a local newspaper about the need for court interpreters.

Court interpreter training was rather cursory so I decided to go assist court sessions personally, and seek out cases involving NES defendants, so as to observe how they were being assisted by an interpreter. After a time, I felt I had the flow of the procedure sufficiently absorbed to venture on to the next step, namely taking an exam for certification.

When you’re starting out, use the ‘broad cast net; approach; working with as many agencies as will sign you up. This will help you circulate and get better acquainted with the market as well as the different ranges of clientele, in both the legal and medical interpreting field.

Finally and foremost, keep an open mind and always be willing to adapt to necessity. It’s the best way to remain relative in an ever changing field of endeavor. And yes, enjoy and have fun at it, too!”

– Richard Lankenau, State of Georgia Certified Court Interpreter in Portuguese & Spanish

“I became interested in healthcare interpreting when trying to use my language and interpreting skills for a part-time job in 2006. I ended up being a full-time interpreter while I was still in graduate school.

Being an interpreter does not necessarily guarantee financial stability, but it is very rewarding and eye-opening. It prepares interpreters to overcome challenges professionally and emotionally, helps them develop communication and problem-solving skills, and makes them more appreciative of what they have.”

– Dong Li, Mandarin CHI

How did you get your start as an interpreter? We’d love to hear your story! Share it with us on our Facebook page!

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