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Key Qualities of a Professional Interpreter

Key Qualities of a Professional Interpreter by Pradiz Russia Tour Operator
Last modified on 25 Sep 2019

What should a modern interpreter know? What qualities will make you an effective asset for your client?


Nowadays, the interpreting services are quite in demand, especially in the business sector. And this is despite the fact that majority of business owners do know English. Why is demand for good interpreters growing? Quite frequently, it is due to situations when a business partner understands well only Chinese or French. And it means that an interpreter has to be invited, it can be done in person or remotely (via Skype or similar programs).

For successful negotiations, a professional interpreter has to possess a certain set of competencies. Undeniably huge work experience and perfect language knowledge are the required qualities of every interpreter. Required but not sufficient. 

When it comes to business, moreover, someone else’s business (for an interpreter); the price of a mistake is extremely high. That is why a language knowledge and  work experience are not enough to become a good interpreter. The tips below will elaborate the requirements:

1.    Match with the surrounding

Poper dressing for professional interpreterPoper dressing for professional interpreter

It is just in the beginning seems that all interpreters’s work is in “the head”. Consecutive interpreter’s work is a constant stress in many cases related to the frequent tours, and long hours of continuous work. A professional interpreter has to be always fresh, positive and energetic. Frequent the gym and keep an eye on your posture. In addition to a good shape, a good appearance has to be mentioned. How an interpreter in jeans and a T-shirt would look at the background of two respectable managers dressed in Brioni suits?

There is a type of interpreters who can care less about their appearance - the simultaneous interpreters. That is because their work doesn't mean constant physical presence near client.

However, the best dressing style for any interpreters is still formal. For men interpreters it is a business suit, preferably it shouldn’t be black (if you are not at funerals, of course) rather blue or grey and shoes.
For women: a unicoloured dress also in neutral colors, preferably not black. Shoes should match the dress. Another alternative – a women’s business suit.

Even if you are accompanying your clients on Moscow City Tour, you should dress decently. You are a guide - at some point, a face of your country your foreign guest sees. So the looks is important even in non-business interpreting. Dress decently!

2. Think positively

Positive thinking is the basis for success not only for interpreters, but in life. You are a professional and if you want others to think so – correspond. The client has nothing to do that your cat not feeling well, you broke up with your beloved, or your mood is bad in the morning. You are always a source of tranquility and amiable disposition.
Does not matter how “heated” the negotiations are, an interpreter has to keep a cool head. Do not change the tone of your voice, be tactful and allow no liberties in the translation.

3. Be an invisible shade

Interpreter’s credo is to be an invisible shade. Never forget about it. You are not a participant of the negotiations; you are just a tool like a car or a pen.  It does not sound attractive, but this is the essence of our profession and you have chosen this path. Never forget about it! When you are on tour with your clients at their leisure time – Moscow City Tour for example, as a guide you must be gregarious - to provide fun experience for your clients whilst walking across major sights. But as an interpreter - it is a complete different story.

4. Prepare beforehand and filter the information quickly

Pen an paper are an indisplacible attributes of a top-level interpreterPen an paper are an indisplacible attributes of a top-level interpreter

It is necessary to collect as much information as possible before the interpretation day. Even if you have translated in this field before, anyway you should clarify from the client all possible non-confidential details. Even one specialized term can ruin all your work. During the meeting you won’t have chance to look it up in the Google, simply you won’t have time. That is why the correct preparation before a meeting is one of key qualities of an interpreter.
Additionally, it is necessary to analyze a big flow of information and sum it up.
Many clients like long monologues – duration of 5, 10 and even 15 minutes. Your aim is to segregate the main points in the client’s speech and to communicate it to the interlocutor the way that he understands everything, but without the repetition of the whole monologues (we value client’s time!).

5. Punctuality

Is it worth mentioning? It is the most obvious of all points.  Never get late for an event. It is better to arrive earlier one or even two hours; you can use this time to revise all the required special terms.  A client orders interpreting services, it means his success depends on you in this meeting. If you are late, the client loses face and you – the reputation.

We wish our colleagues success in their work and our dear clients – only the best translators.  
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