What Does a French Interpreter Do?

P.M. Willers
P.M. Willers
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A French interpreter is a person who is fluent in French in addition to one or more other languages. Typically, a position as n interpreter requires this individual to act as the language link in situations of spoken communication, and sometimes written communication as well. A French interpreter usually works with a person who speaks no French but needs to communicate with someone using the French language. Generally, interpreters do the majority of their work using spoken communication.

Worldwide, French is spoken not only in France and some parts of Canada, but in many other countries as well. It is an official language in 30 countries and in many international organizations, including the United Nations. Most of the countries in which French is an official language also have other official languages and interpreters work in these countries to ensure all official government communication is conducted and available in all official languages. Similarly, many international organizations have more than one official operating language, and include French as one of their official languages. French interpreters work to ensure that all of their communication is available in all official languages.

Interpreters generally work in one of two modes: simultaneous or consecutive. Simultaneous interpreters should be well-versed in the subject area, as they are required to interpret while someone is speaking and may need to anticipate the coming words and phrases. Simultaneous interpreters generally have a specific area of expertise and work primarily in that field. Consecutive interpreters speak once the original speaker has finished communicating a sentence, phrase, or idea. Interpreters using this mode often take notes while listening to a speaker.

In the private sector, there are also many roles for a French Interpreter. Many companies, large and small, conduct business in French-speaking parts of the world. Large companies need full-time interpreters to work with company employees so that communication is smooth and efficient within the company.

Freelance interpreting is also very common. Smaller companies may only need the services of a French interpreter on a limited or seasonal basis. One interpreter, however, can find enough work from many different companies on a part-time basis to add up to a full-time job.

There is no single way to become an Interpreter, though most attend classes to earn a special degree or qualification. This specific training is especially valuable and necessary for those seeking full-time, public sector positions. Becoming a freelance interpreter, however, is a far more informal process. Many begin by offering their services to a variety of companies, and work to expand their client base. Becoming a successful French interpreter can be a long and competitive process, but the result is a place in a potentially rewarding and interesting profession.

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