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Charles Nekrasov
Charles Nekrasov

Interpreters (2020)

At the same time, the pandemic, with its extreme risk for disease transmission, highlights the critical need and the value of trained professionals medical interpreters, who are well-versed in universal precautions and infection control protocols.

Interpreters (2020)


At Commonwealth Medicine, the Massachusetts Medical Interpreter Training program (a program of the MassAHEC Network) is taught by highly qualified instructors and designed for a wide variety of participants, from those just entering the profession to experienced interpreters.

About 9,200 openings for interpreters and translators are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Interpreters and translators aid communication by converting messages or text from one language (typically called the source language) into another language (the target language). Although some people do both, interpreting and translating are different skills: interpreters work with spoken communication, and translators work with written communication.

Community interpreters work in a variety of public settings to provide language interpretation one-on-one or for groups. Community interpreters often are needed at parent-teacher conferences, community events, business and public meetings, social and government agencies, new-home purchases, and in many other work and community settings.

Conference interpreters often do simultaneous interpreting. Attendees at a conference or meeting who do not understand the language of the speaker wear earphones tuned to the interpreter who speaks the language they want to hear.

Liaison or escort interpreters accompany either U.S. visitors abroad or foreign visitors in the United States who have limited English proficiency. Interpreting in both formal and informal settings, these specialists ensure that the visitors are able to communicate during their stay.

Legal or judicial interpreters and translators typically work in courts and other judicial settings. At arraignments, depositions, hearings, and trials, they help people who have limited English proficiency. Accordingly, they must understand legal terminology. Court interpreters must sometimes read source documents aloud in a target language, a task known as sight translation.

Sign language interpreters facilitate communication between people who are deaf or hard of hearing and people who can hear. Sign language interpreters must be fluent in English and in American Sign Language (ASL), which combines signing, finger spelling, and specific body language. ASL is a separate language from English and has its own grammar.

Trilingual interpreters facilitate communication among an English speaker, a speaker of another language, and an ASL user. They must have the versatility and cultural understanding necessary to interpret in all three languages without changing the fundamental meaning of the message.

Interpreters work in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, courtrooms, detention facilities, and conference centers; they also may work remotely. Some interpreters, such as liaison or escort interpreters, travel frequently. Depending on the setting and type of assignment, interpreting may be stressful.

Internships offer prospective interpreters and translators an opportunity to learn about the work. For example, interns may shadow an experienced interpreter or begin working in industries with particularly high demand for language services, such as court or medical interpreting.

General certification typically is not required for interpreters and translators. However, workers may show proficiency by passing a variety of optional certification tests. For example, the American Translators Association (ATA) provides certification in many language combinations.

Employers may require or prefer certification for some types of interpreters and translators. For example, most states require certification for court interpreters. Federal courts offer court interpreter certification in several languages, including Spanish, Navajo, and Haitian Creole. At the state level, courts offer certification in multiple languages.

The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) offers two types of certification for healthcare interpreters: Core Certification Healthcare Interpreter (CoreCHI), for interpreters of any language providing services in the United States; and Certified Healthcare Interpreter (CHI), for interpreters of Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin.

The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI) offers two types of certification for medical interpreters: the Hub-CMI credential, a nonlanguage-specific certification available to all interpreters regardless of target language; and the CMI credential for interpreters of Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Russian, Korean, and Vietnamese.

The U.S. Department of State offers aptitude tests for interpreters and translators at various levels, from basic to advanced. Although these tests are not considered a credential, they are a required step for candidates to be added to a roster for freelance assignments. Other federal agencies may offer similar proficiency tests.

Experience is not typically required to enter the occupation, but it may be especially helpful for interpreters and freelancers pursuing self-employment. Prospective interpreters and translators may benefit from activities such as spending time in a foreign country, interacting directly with foreign cultures, and studying a variety of subjects in English and at least one other language.

Working in-house for a translation company or taking on freelance or volunteer assignments may help people gain firsthand knowledge of the skills that interpreters or translators need. Volunteer opportunities for interpreters may be available through community organizations, hospitals, and sporting events, such as soccer, that involve international competitors.

By developing relationships with experienced workers in the field, interpreters and translators build their skills and confidence and establish a network of contacts. Mentoring may be formal, such as through a professional association; for example, both the American Translators Association (ATA) and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) offer formal mentoring programs. Mentoring also may be informal, such as with a coworker or an acquaintance who has experience interpreting or translating.

Some interpreters and translators advance by becoming self-employed. They may submit resumes and samples to different translation and interpreting companies who match their skills to assignments. They may get work based on their reputation or through referrals from clients or colleagues. Those who start their own businesses also may hire translators and interpreters to work for them.

Business skills. Self-employed interpreters and translators must be able to manage their finances. They need to set prices for their work, bill customers, keep records, and market their services to build their client base.

The median annual wage for interpreters and translators was $49,110 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,360, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $97,760.

These wage data exclude self-employed workers. Pay for interpreters and translators may depend on a number of variables, including the language, specialty, experience, education, and certification of the interpreter or translator.

Demand for American Sign Language interpreters is expected to grow due to the increasing use of video relay services, which allow people to conduct online video calls and use a sign language interpreter.

In addition, growing international trade and broadening global ties should require more interpreters and translators, especially in emerging markets such as Asia and Africa. The ongoing need for military and national security interpreters and translators should result in more jobs as well.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Interpreters and Translators, at -and-communication/interpreters-and-translators.htm (visited March 16, 2023).

Health care providers are frequently faced with the challenge of caring for patients who have limited English proficiency. These patients experience challenges accessing health care and are at higher risk of receiving suboptimal health care than native English speakers. Health care interpreters are crucial partners to help break down communication barriers and prevent these patients from facing health care disparities. Many providers lack the skill set and knowledge that are vital to successful collaboration with an interpreter. The objective of this article is to address a number of questions surrounding the use of health care interpreters and to provide concrete suggestions that will enable providers to best serve their patients.

Aim: Linguistic diversity is increasing nationally; patients with limited English proficiency require provision of professional interpreters. We reviewed hospital-wide use of interpreters for low English proficiency in a tertiary hospital across emergency (ED), outpatient and inpatient presentations.

Methods: Two cohorts with low English proficiency presenting to Princess Margaret Hospital were audited. Records of new Refugee Health Service patients (presenting between January and July 2015) and non-Refugee Health Service low English proficiency patients (obtained through Language Services bookings) were reviewed to assess demographic profiles and use of interpreters for any occasion of service over the following 12 months (for each patient). 041b061a72


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