How to become a Interpreter

Interpreters use their knowledge of languages and cultures to convert a spoken or signed language into another spoken or signed language, usually within a limited time frame and in the presence of the participants who need to communicate.

Personal requirements of a Interpreter

  • Excellent command of English
  • Fluency or ability to learn at least one other language
  • Able to interpret accurately and objectively
  • Initiative and research skills
  • Broad general knowledge
  • Good concentration skills
  • Good memory
  • Able to maintain confidentiality
  • Understanding and acceptance of different cultures

Education & Training for a Interpreter

To become an interpreter you must be fluent in another language as well as English. You will also need to complete a VET or university qualification in interpreting. A number of institutions in Australia offer language courses or language majors. These courses can help you become qualified by developing the language skills needed to meet the entry requirements for a further course of study in interpreting. Entry to VET qualifications or degrees usually requires you to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Most institutions in Australia offer language courses or language majors. Institutions have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Duties & Tasks of a Interpreter

Interpreters may perform the following tasks:

  • interpret verbal or signed communications between two parties
  • provide simultaneous or consecutive interpretations of conversations or speeches
  • express the meaning and feeling of what is said or signed in another language in the appropriate tone and style within a range of settings
  • verbally translate written texts.

Employment Opportunities for a Interpreter

Interpreters usually work on a freelance basis. They are employed by federal, state or territory government departments concerned with immigration, defence, legal issues and law enforcement, social security and education. Organisations such as hospitals, banks, tourist agencies and private interpreting and translating firms may also employ interpreters on a contract or freelance basis. The languages in demand change from time to time, particularly in relation to recent immigration and refugee arrivals. Opportunities may also exist for Indigenous language interpreters. The demand for interpreters also depends upon levels of government funding for interpreter services and the general level of business activity. Most interpreting positions, such as interpreting in courts or working for the state, territory and federal Translating and Interpreting Services, are on a contract, freelance or casual basis. Permanent opportunities are limited, but are most likely in health and defence. Some highly qualified interpreters work at international conferences, as well as government and/or business meetings.

Additional Information
After completing an appropriate qualification or gaining significant experience you may be able to gain NAATI accreditation. The NAATI levels of accreditation range from Paraprofessional Interpreter and Professional Interpreter to Conference Interpreter and Conference Interpreter (Senior). Both Conference Interpreter accreditations require the high levels of proficiency needed for trade negotiations and international conference. The minimum level of accreditation that NAATI recommends for professional work in Australia is the Professional Interpreter level. Graduates of courses approved by The National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) may apply for accreditation without further testing. Interpreters need to have a sound knowledge of a wide range of subjects to develop a thorough understanding of the complex issues that are discussed during interpreting assignments.
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