Types of Interpreters

There are many different types of interpreters. Interpreters may work in different areas or they may choose to specialize in one area.

1. Freelance– Freelance interpreters are self-employed. They are either contacted by translation and interpreting companies, business or other private clients, or may be registered with large multinational organizations who contact them when they are in need of their services.

2. Staff/In-House – Staff interpreters work for large multinational organizations such as the European Union or the United Nations. They typically work seven 3-hour sessions per week, leaving them three 3-hour sessions for preparation, glossary making, or other revision.

3. Conference A conference interpreter will interpret at international conferences, either simultaneously or consecutively. Conference interpreters either work for institutions or work as freelance interpreters. The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) is the only international profession organization for conference interpreters. Conference interpreters often speak many languages but only interpret into their mother tongue(s).

4. Escort/Business– Escort interpreters accompany a person or a delegation on a tour, visit, meeting or interview. Both escort and business interpreters use liaison interpreting to facilitate communication between the two parties.

5. Public sector– Public Sector interpreters use consecutive/liaison interpreting and work bidirectionally, in other words, they interpret into both languages. Fields such as legal, health, and local government, social, housing, environmental health, education, and welfare services require public service interpreters. Many interpreters in this sector hold a DPSI, (Diploma in Public Service Interpreting) in Law, Health, or Local Government.
     a. Judicial- Judicial/legal/court interpreters interpret for all types of legal proceedings. They may use many different modes of interpreting in one session and may interpret in different locations (courts of justice, administrative tribunals, police stations, a conference room for a deposition or the locale for taking a sworn statement, etc.). The right to a competent interpreter for anyone who does not understand the language of the court is usually considered a fundamental rule of justice. This is why in addition to practical mastery of the source and target languages, thorough knowledge of law and legal and court procedures is required of court interpreters. Formal authorization, such as a DPSI, is a requisite to work in the Courts and an interpreter with such a qualification is then referred to as a certified court interpreter.
     b. Medical- Medical interpreting is a subset of Public Service Interpreting in which the interpreter acts as an intercultural communication mediator between the medical personnel and the patient and their family. This task is sometimes carried out by bilingual members of staff or even family members, although legislation in some areas is now requiring hospitals to only use professional interpreters due to the possible consequences of not using one (See our blog on how using a professional interpreter saves lives and offers value for money). Just as is the case with legal interpreters, medical interpreters must have strong knowledge of medicine, common medical procedures, the patient interview, the medical examination processes, ethics, and the daily workings of the hospital or clinic where he or she works to be able to work efficiently.

6. Sign Language- Sign language interpreters work both simultaneously and consecutively. When a hearing person speaks, an interpreter will render the speaker’s meaning into the sign language used by the deaf party. When a deaf person signs, an interpreter will render the meaning expressed in the signs into the spoken language for the hearing party, which is sometimes referred to as voice interpreting or voicing. Sign language interpreters can work in all previously mentioned settings.

7. Media- Media interpreters work simultaneously for live television coverage such as press conferences, live or taped interviews with political figures, musicians, artists, sportsmen or people from the business circle. Media interpreters have to deal with the added stress of a wide range of potential technical issues as well as the pressure of the feed being live and recorded.

8. Community interpreter- Community interpreters often work in public service settings or for charities. They are often bilingual or have proficient language skills but do not always have formal interpreter training. They may, however, have Level 1-3 community interpreter training.

9. Bilingual employee – A bilingual employee will often do ad-hoc interpreting work for their employers as they speak the language(s) required. They often do not have formal interpreter training but they do often possess and in-depth knowledge of the subject matter.

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