Spoken Language Interpreter Job Description: Excellent Resource for Clients and Employers
The Spoken Language Interpreter Job Description, authored by Norma Andrada, Heidi Cazes, Helen Eby, Julia Poger, and Rafael Treviño, might be called a job description, but I swear it’s one of the simplest and most straightforward ways to answer client and employer questions about what interpreters do.
The variety of the authors’ backgrounds and locations definitely enrich this solid and much-needed document. Julia Poger, for example, is a conference interpreter based in Europe, while Heidi Cazes and Helen Eby are community interpreters based on the east and west coasts of the US, respectively. All authors have teaching or training experience; in addition to being clear, the job description presents both the bigger picture and some helpful specifics about our multifaceted profession.
It’s divided into four sections: knowledge, skills, and abilities; qualifications; physical requirements; and resources. Here’s what you’ll find in each of them:
Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
This section is the meatiest, comprising most of the document. The “modes of interpreting” sub-section is excellent for newbies and clients who have not worked with an interpreter before. It explains the three main modes of interpreting (thanks for leaving summary out!): sight, consecutive, and simultaneous. I see confusion all the time from potential clients, who seem to only know about what they see as “UN style” or sentence-by-sentence interpreting. This document explains how and when we use each one, succinctly yet completely, including notions of speed and length of utterance. The information about team interpreting, relay, and ethics sets the stage for asking for ideal working conditions, as established by multiple professional associations in the field. In this section, remote interpreting is also expertly presented, and there is even a bit about written translation.
This section is all about what standards clients and employers should require when hiring an interpreter. While we still don’t have any national requirements for certification or even definitions as to what “qualified” or “professional” means for spoken language interpreting, if we can collectively uphold a few basic standards, we will continue to make progress as a profession. In this job description, qualifications start with language proficiency, which itself can be highly contestable. As we know, being bilingual does not an interpreter make–but even the claim to being “bilingual” is grossly overstated and misunderstood. If an interpreter is helping mediate a legal case or medical procedure and something goes afoul, you can bet the interpreter’s qualifications will come under intense scrutiny, and no employer (or even client) wants to get caught justifying themselves with “the interpreter said she was bilingual.” Language proficiency is measurable, and with the guidelines in this document, you can steer your client right. This section on qualifications also presents the current certification program available to some specialties within spoken language interpreting, which is very helpful.
This section is short and sweet and, as the title suggests, outlines physical requirements for the interpreting profession.
This section has great links to ISO standards, credentialing bodies, and tips published by the US Department of Justice.
All in all, this document is another excellent resource for interpreters, clients, and employers alike. Make sure to read and absorb it, and next time someone asks you why you need a boothmate or quality audio, you’ll be able to steer them to this page.