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What Are the Different Types of Interpreter Qualifications?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 August 2014
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The different types of interpreter qualifications can include receiving a two or four year undergraduate degree, proving proficiency in a secondary language, and receiving a license to interpret. Sign language interpreters often must meet higher qualifications that interpreters for spoken languages. These qualifications are often based on the type of interpreting work which will be performed, as well. Individuals interested in a specific type of work can benefit from contacting an employer in that field and requesting a list of necessary qualifications prior to beginning any course work or licensure programs.

Sign language interpreter qualifications typically require that applicants be certified by a local or regional agency in the type of sign language commonly used in a particular country before they can begin interpreting professionally. Interpreters wishing to work in the US, for example, must be certified in interpreting American Sign Language, while those working in the UK will use British Sign Language. Certification often includes attending a specified number of classes, passing a final written examination, and demonstrating a physical proficiency in various signs. Some countries may also require that interpreters hold a four year undergraduate degree in a related field prior to beginning certification course work.

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Interpreter qualifications for spoken language translation jobs are often more relaxed than those imposed on sign language interpreters. Individual requirements may be based on the type of work being performed, instead of on the language being interpreted. National and regional standards typically do not apply to this type of work, allowing employers to set their own personal qualifications for each new employee.

Translation work for a particular language is usually specific to the region in which the interpreter works. For example, in the US, Spanish translators are frequently needed to help employers communicate with growing Hispanic populations that do not yet know English. As a result, interpreters may be asked to translate in addition to performing administrative tasks specific to the type of company for which they work. Translators can work in call centers or businesses that are open to the public, performing administrative duties, and may work exclusively with foreign speaking clientele. Education standards for these types of positions generally only require that applicants have a high school or secondary school education, and a proven written and spoken proficiency in their second spoken language.

More technical positions may post interpreter qualifications that require a two or four year undergraduate degree in an individual's second language, or a related field. These types of positions include teaching English as a second language (ESL), medical interpreting, and legal interpreting. Each type of position may also require that applicants have received some training in their specified field of interest, such as teaching, medicine, or the law, as these jobs often include vocabulary that is unique to that particular discipline. Additional qualifications may include passing a written and oral examination created and administered by the employer, as well as signing a personal code of conduct that details the type of behavior expected from each interpreter as they relate to clients.

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