Types of Professional Interpreters and What They Do

The need for professional interpreters is growing exponentially in today’s global marketplace. Whether you are a business owner who needs to speak with international investors, a clinician in an emergency room or urgent care setting, or an attorney who needs to communicate with witnesses who are not native English speakers, professional interpreters are an essential part of a successful business.

Here is an overview of some of the different types of interpreters and what they do:

Medical Interpreters

In a healthcare setting, it is extremely important to have clear communication between clinicians and patients. Medical interpreting provides that communication between patients and their doctors, nurses and other staff to ensure medical providers understand the patients’ symptoms for accurate diagnoses, as well as to ensure patients understand their treatment plans.

Quality medical interpreting requires intimate knowledge of medical terminology as well as the ability to communicate medical concepts clearly and simply. An understanding of cultural differences is also a necessity.

Legal Interpreters

A legal interpreter can work in trials and hearings, as well as in law offices at depositions and attorney-client meetings. Legal interpreters need to understand both colloquial vocabulary and specialized legal terminology. They also need to be able to make that terminology understandable to a lay person.

Sometimes a legal interpreter may also be asked to translate written documents aloud (sight translation) in trials, hearings or arraignments.

Sign Language Interpreters

Sign language interpreters help ease communication between deaf or hard-of-hearing people and hearing people. They primarily use American Sign Language but can be asked to interpret using English word order or even to make things clearer for people who lip-read. Some sign language interpreters specialize in tactile signing for those who are both blind and deaf.

Conference Interpreters

Usually fluent in more than two languages, conference interpreters are highly skilled and are commonly found at the United Nations doing simultaneous interpretation.

Guide Interpreters

Also known as escort interpreters, guide interpreters accompany visitors to the U.S. in order to facilitate communication. Some professional interpreters prefer this specialty as it involves frequent travel, special events and locations and is often more informal. Guide interpreting assignments can run for days or weeks at a time.

These are only some of the interpreting specialties that might appeal to bilingual individuals looking for careers as professional interpreters.

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