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The needed skills for an interpreter


The interpretation profession has continued to gain popularity over the last decade especially in South Africa. The recognition of this unique skill has also continued to grow with both the public and private sector incorporating the role of professional interpreters in most of their public engagements. Greater emphasis has also been placed by training institutions to design interpretation courses which assist in imparting the right skills. While mastering of this craft sometimes comes with many years of experience, it is important to recognise that a deep deficiency in certain skills can make many years of studying or even practical years look futile.

There are certain principles or skills that a practicing or would be interpreter should be able to possess.

Self Confidence – Levels of self-confidence have a great impact on one’s ability to effectively memorise new information or retain certain pieces of important data in the short-term or long-term memory.

Concentration and level of attention – A good interpreter should be able to deal with distractions like sounds. The ability to retain attention in a distractive environment and concentrate will always be a good quality.
Speed of presentation – The ability to quickly grasp the communicated information, process it and interpret it for the audience in the shortest possible time will always be a good quality for an interpreter.

Vocabulary – A good interpreter should possess a good reservoir of vocabulary. This is because they are under obligation to interpret even the richest communications in terms of vocabulary. A good amount of time should be dedicated to working on enhancing vocabulary on a word to word basis, on sentence, paragraph and whole text structures.
Knowledge – A professional interpreter should be knowledgeable and informed about a broad range of current affairs matters as well as a variety of technical subjects.
Awareness – Insight into the cultural and political background of speakers and diverse audiences goes a long way in achieving an effective interpretation delivery.
While the above skills are crucial, it is important to highlight that future interpreters should undergo psycholinguistic training, taking into account the fact that a major part of the work depends on the self-training of students. Instructors can only provide guidelines.

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