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I am an interpreting student in my second year of training. Some of my classmates, including myself, are getting freelance interpreting opportunities from friends, alumni, and various contacts. While many would accept these jobs, I didn't actively seek these opportunities as I was struggling with my confidence and work ethics.

But the dilemma is: with all the mock conferences and field trips in interpreting programs, we the trainees are still always practicing interpreting in a protected environment disconnected with the reality. We'll never know if we can survive and how to survive in real work settings if we don't go out of the academic bubble.

So can you share your experience in your first interpreting assignments? Do you have any suggestion about how an interpreting student can decide when to take on his/her first interpreting job? And if they do take on the job, how they can close the gap between training and real work?

asked 18 Oct '18, 17:58

EliChang's gravatar image


Ideally as you approach the end of your interpreting course (particularly a 2 year one) the work you do in class will become more realistic in terms of speech, difficulty of content and preparation. Some teachers bring in documents from meeting they have actually worked at for example and prepare them together with students and then use them as the basis for speeches.

I wouldn't attach too much importance to whether you feel ready or not. Most of us didn't feel really confident about interpreting for years and years. And quite frankly you can take any interpreter in the world and put them in a new environment and they won't feel all that confident again!

My advice is to take work once you've graduated. And then to prepare the hell out of every assignment. It's perfectly logical to spend several days preparing a single day's assignment early in your career. Use your doubts about confidence as a positive that will motivate you to prepare more. If you working with someone who is familiar with the assignment get them to explain what is going on at the meeting - who's who, what their angle is, what they want from the meeting etc. Motives and background are very important if you want to understand the actual words used! When you're well prepared and you recognize ideas, arguments and terminology that you've come across in preparation it gives you confidence!

There are lots of guides to how to prepare.

Good luck!

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answered 19 Oct '18, 03:47

Andy's gravatar image


Do you have any suggestion about how an interpreting student can decide when to take on his/her first interpreting job?

I wouldn't want a student-surgeon to operate on me before he has finished what is considered to be his basic training. Nor that he bills me for a service they're not sure they can provide yet to the expected level.

By the same token, senior surgeons wouldn't want yet-to-be fully trained people to possibly cause harm to the patient and hurt the reputation of their own profession.

We'll never know if we can survive and how to survive in real work settings if we don't go out of the academic bubble.

Dummy booth is to interpreters what the flight simulator is to pilots. If you can land the plane on the simulator, you're all good. On the other hand, I've often seen interpreting students claiming that it's not close enough to real life to be worthy of them taking the drill seriously and be all in. They crash the plane in the simulator but want to fly a real one out there, because it sounds more fun. They miss out on valuable learning moments while at the same time dreaming of working live, tending to forget that they are not there yet, and assuming it'd be fine to learn at the expense of real customers.

There are virtually unlimited amounts of talks, lectures, debates, parliamentary debates,... online to be able to do something that is extremely close to the real thing. Just use that opportunity. No need to rush to prove yourself in the real world. Chances are you'll do something detrimental without noticing and that could seriously impede your later start in the profession.

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answered 22 Oct '18, 10:19

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

edited 22 Oct '18, 10:29

This is a great question, and one that we hear from both students and recent graduates all the time.

While still training:

  • don’t accept any open mike assignments without making sure that you have a reliable teacher with you, making sure that the message is getting across, giving you feedback on how you are doing, etc. If the teacher says you are doing well, and it’s ok to work without a teacher in that particular case, then fine.
  • treat every opportunity to practice as if it were the real thing. As you practice, so shall you work. If you are used to slacking off when you practice, you will slack off in real life too.
  • dummy booth is most valuable when you have someone to listen to you as well, to let you know when you are doing well and what needs improving.

Once you have passed your diploma and/or professional exams:

  • you are a professional. Don’t act like a student. Unless your boothmate is one of your former teachers, do not ask for feedback.
  • you are ready. A jury of professionals says so. Make sure to prepare enormously for each assignment. We all have imposter syndrome when we start out. It takes a long time to overcome.
  • remember that once your diploma is in hand, your tests are not over. To get to interpret for the EU, the US Dept of State, or the UN, you have to take tests. Plus, any assignment can be like a test, as you will be with new colleagues who can recommend you. This is why, when we practice, we never slack off.
  • join a practice group. You may not get work right away, and you must still practice every day.
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answered 31 Oct '18, 12:11

JuliaP's gravatar image


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question asked: 18 Oct '18, 17:58

question was seen: 1,977 times

last updated: 31 Oct '18, 12:11

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