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Interpreter Career Description

Interpreters translate messages verbally from one language into another in such a way that the contents of the message remains the same.

What am I going to do in this occupation?

A clear distinction is made between the duties of translators and those of interpreters. Translators deal with the written language while interpreters do not only have to relay the spoken word, but also the attitude and demeanor of the witness or speaker. The ultimate goal is to facilitate communication within a multi-language environment. Translation is a more introspective and reflective occupation, where the person has sufficient time to choose the most appropriate word or phrase. Interpreters, on the other hand, have very little time at their disposal. Whereas interpreters are usually also able to translate, translators do not necessarily have the highly specialized skills to translate information while listening and speaking at the same time.

In South Africa there are job opportunities for two kinds of interpreters, namely consecutive and simultaneous interpreters. Consecutive interpreters usually work in courts and at small meetings and seminars, while simultaneous interpreters are mostly utilised at large conferences. Where use is made of consecutive methods, the interpreters usually wait for the speaker or witness (in the case of court interpreters) to pause and then make use of this opportunity to translate the preceding parts.

Simultaneous 'interpreting entails the almost immediate translation of a message into another language while the speaking continues. At large conferences interpreters listen to the message with the aid of a headpiece and translates via a microphone. Thus the delegates are able to listen to the discussion in the language of their choice without any interruptions. This method is extremely demanding, since the interpreters have to remember what the speaker has said, they have to understand and relay the core of the message, and at the same time they have to listen to the speaker's next sentence.

Requirements

What kind of personality do I need? Interpreters should have an aptitude for languages as well as a sound general knowledge. This includes knowledge of national affairs, technical and scientific subjects (in court cases knowledge of the law and legal procedures is a necessity), as well as the cultural and political background of the speaker and the target group. Interpreters should have a good memory and the ability to appear in public.

Where can I work?

Interpreters mainly work at courts as well as at large conferences in business negotiations, tour agencies, in the tourism industry and at some government departments.

Can I work for myself in this occupation?

There are opportunities for interpreters to work on a free-lance basis at courts, at international conferences and for tour groups.

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