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How Do I Become a French Interpreter?

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  • Written By: K. Testa
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2018
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To become a French interpreter, you usually need to be fluent in French and another language, and possess certain other traits, such as analytical skills and the ability to speak clearly. A bachelor's degree is usually expected for most interpreter jobs. Interpreter training is available from a variety of sources, including traditional schools and distance learning programs. While not always necessary, a number of interpreter jobs require formal certification. In many cases, practical experience, such as volunteering or an internship, is just as important as your academic background and can help you secure a job as a French interpreter and help advance your interpreter career.

Usually, it helps to be a native speaker of French and/or another language to become a French interpreter, and you'll need to be fluent in both. Depending on the job, the interpreter often must think and speak rapidly in both languages. In addition to being proficient at French vocabulary and grammar, the interpreter must also understand the nuances of the language and the cultural context of the conversations. In most cases, you will perform either simultaneous or consecutive interpretation, each having its own unique requirements, such as needing a good memory.

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Other considerations when you want to become a French interpreter include your geographic location and specialty area, if any. French is spoken in many countries throughout the world, so it is important to be familiar with various dialects and cultural differences. The amount of formal training required normally depends on your position; working for a government, for instance, usually entails additional training and certification. Some specialized professions, such as those involving advanced technical knowledge, require master's degrees.

As part of its undergraduate offerings, a college might offer a training program for someone who wants to become a French interpreter, while other people take distance learning courses and self-study programs. Still others, especially medical and legal interpreters, are often trained on the job. Real-world experience is generally considered just as important as, if not more than, an academic degree. Volunteer work, internships, and apprenticeships can all help you gain practical experience and expose you to the realities of interpreting language.

In order to become a French interpreter, you might find it beneficial to work with a mentor in the field. Doing so can give you the opportunity to network, to enhance your skills, and to build confidence as a professional. In addition, you can gain business knowledge, which will be helpful if you plan to be a freelance French interpreter or start your own interpreting business.

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