3 Common Misconceptions about Interpretation

Punjabi Interpreter

3 Common Misconceptions about Interpreting

As long as there have been humans, there have been languages and people who help others communicate across languages. In our increasingly interconnected world, people are able to move to the other side of the planet for increased opportunity. With millions of people on the move every day there is a huge need for interpreters. Interpreting is the act of converting spoken dialogue from one language into another. Even though interpreters are used every day around the world, many people don’t understand what interpreters do or how they train. This article will help to dispel the three most common misconceptions about interpreting.

1. Any bilingual person can be an interpreter

Just because a person is bilingual doesn’t mean they are a good interpreter. Interpreters are not only bilingual, they have trained and practiced their skills for many years. Interpreters know each of their languages inside and out including the grammar, proper styles, and current vocabulary. They have university degrees in foreign languages and professional certifications.

Almost all healthcare organizations and court systems require that interpreters go through interpretation-specific training. This training helps prepare interpreters for the high-stress and often difficult situations in which they work. In this training they also learn about how to honor and abide by confidentiality laws to keep their clients secure. Finally, interpreters go through training so that they are able to interpret without emotion or judgment and faithfully convey the spoken words of their clients.

Your bilingual family member or coworker is great to use in a pinch, but they can’t substitute for a professional interpreter. In fact, not using an interpreter may mean you don’t have a full understanding of the situation you are in. For example, if you have a medical emergency and your mother interprets for you but she doesn’t have training, she may miss key information that you would need to consent to your treatment.

2. It’s awkward talking through an interpreter about private information

This is one of the most commonly held misconceptions about interpreting. People assume that it will be awkward to have another person in the room when they have a medical exam or appear in court. This could not be further from the truth. As we mentioned previously, interpreters are trained professionals. Many interpreters are retired doctors or lawyers or have experience with these fields in other countries. An interpreter is a person who wants to help without judgment. When using an interpreter, people are often surprised that they don’t add to the conversation but merely play a middleman. And if you’re worried about confidential information getting out, they won’t store any information about you or your ailments, legal troubles, and more. All interpreters sign HIPAA-compliance agreements and codes of ethics stating they won’t distribute this information.

3. Interpreters know every word in each language they speak

Do you know every word in the English language? No one does! Just like the rest of us, interpreters don’t know every word in every one of the languages they speak. Don’t get us wrong, interpreters have studied and practiced and have extensive vocabularies. When an interpreter works, they don’t have time to consult a dictionary for any words so they must memorize huge chunks of industry-specific terminology. If an interpreter doesn’t immediately recall a word’s translation, it doesn’t mean they don’t know it. Plus, they will take extra care to explain the definition to the other party so that they understand.

Acutrans is on a mission to educate America about languages! With a team of thousands of translators and interpreters across the world, we can help with any language need you may have. Reach out to Acutrans for more information today!