Interpreters work with the spoken word at conferences, meetings, trials, hospitals and anywhere else that interpretation is needed. There are two types of interpreting: simultaneous or conference interpreting and consecutive interpreting.
Simultaneous interpreting usually happens at big conferences and meetings and involves the interpreter sitting in a soundproof booth listening on headphones to delegates giving speeches in a foreign language and at the same time, speaking a translation in their (the interpreter’s) native language into a microphone so that delegates who speak that language can understand what’s going on. Simultaneous interpreting is a high-pressure, high-stress and usually well-paid job. Simultaneous interpreters often work in teams with each individual interpreting for 15-20 minutes at a time.
Consecutive interpreting involves giving a translation after speakers have spoken, and often translating in both directions between languages. Consecutive interpreting may occur at smaller meetings, discussions between politicians, business people and journalists, and also in courtrooms and hospitals
Interpreters have to be able to interpret both to and from their native language without using dictionaries or other references materials. They also have to be very good at listening and remembering what has been said in one language while simultaneously or consecutively providing a translation in another language. A good knowledge of the subjects under discussion is also essential.
Many interpreters are self-employed and find clients themselves, and/or work for agencies, who find the clients and handle payments. There are also positions for interpreters in some large organisations, such as the United Nations, governments and the military.