Qualities of a Skilled Language Interpreter

A skilled language interpreter bridges the gap between two cultures and languages to achieve accurate communication. Conveying the message accurately from the host language to the target language requires more than just a good grasp of the language itself. Here are some qualities that you should look for in a skilled interpreter.

  1. Exceptional listener. Not only does an interpreter need to pick up on every word, but also every meaning and intent. While they are making sense of a message in one language, they simultaneously need to be articulating the same message in another language. Strong memory, recall, and note-taking skills are also essential in order to render accurate services.
  2. Acute sensory, motor, and cognitive skills. Interpretation requires all of these skills to work together in order to ensure that nuances, idioms, and language are all seamlessly relayed accurately. Knowing what point the speaker is trying to get across helps.
  3. Knowledge level. Interpreters work in real-time, which means they can’t usually rely on a dictionary or other reference material. A skilled interpreter will have a very good knowledge of the subject matter, the language, and the abbreviations or jargon associated with it. Skilled interpreters should ask for background information and documentation to gain familiarity with the words and themes for which they are interpreting.
  4. Objectivity. Along the same lines, a skilled interpreter needs to be objective. His or her own opinion should never be evident and the stance of neutrality should never be abandoned. Additionally, a skilled interpreter should be able to detach from the situation and practice discretion when conveying particular emotions, while not offering opinion or advice.
  5. Cultural Awareness. Just as important as a thorough knowledge of the subject matter, is the ability to be culturally aware. This includes history, traditions, customs, and even current events. If, for example, a political reference is made in the host language, a skilled interpreter will be able to translate and adapt the message in a way that will resonate with the target audience.

This is not an exhaustive list of qualities to look for in a skilled interpreter, however, at least all of these qualities should be present.

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