By Karen Hodgson


Telephone Interpreting

Telephone communication still plays an important part in most businesses, even though it sometimes seems like everything is done online these days. This makes telephone interpreters vital to the operations of some companies, especially for companies that operate internationally or do a significant amount of business with foreign clients. Using telephone interpreters allows phone conversations to occur even when the parties involved don’t share a common language.

The role of a telephone interpreter isn’t an easy one, however. Not only does the interpreter have to be fluent in a spoken language, but he or she also needs to understand and translate speech quickly even when it’s hard to hear. Though the specifics of telephone interpretation jobs will vary from one position to the next, here are some of the things that you can expect if you decide to try your hand at becoming a telephone interpreter.

Thinking on Your Feet

As a telephone interpreter, you are expected to provide near-instant translation of what both parties are saying. This is an important job, as without you the conversation wouldn’t be able to progress. If one or both parties have a poor connection or are speaking too quickly, this can cause significant problems for the interpreter. Telephone interpreters need to be able to adjust to a wide range of situations and provide the best possible service even in cases where call quality isn’t exactly ideal.

Spoken Fluency

As a telephone interpreter, you need to be fluent in at least two languages to perform your duties correctly. This means that you’ll not only have to be able to understand what the parties are saying, but you’ll also need enough fluency to translate the different parts of the conversation for each party. This can be difficult at times, as you don’t have a written transcript to follow. Instead, you’ll have to be able to understand spoken language even through accents and unusual speech patterns.

Organization Skills

Being able to manage both sides of a conversation over the phone is a vital skill for a telephone interpreter. You have to both listen and talk to both parties of the conversation, and to do your job properly you need to avoid confusing the two portions of the conversation. This can be especially difficult if one or both parties try to talk over each other. To properly manage the conversation, you will have to make sure that each party waits to respond and that the conversation follows a very organized format.

When Accuracy is Absolutely Vital!

Obviously, accuracy is very important to the work of telephone interpreters. Even though you may occasionally have to adjust the phrasing of certain parts of the conversation for language-specific reasons, you should strive to directly translate as much of the conversation as possible. If your accuracy starts to slip while interpreting during a phone call, you may accidentally change the course of the call or endanger relations between the two parties. Even a few small mistranslations can have a major effect if you’re not careful.

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