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I've heard that teachers who are practicing interpreters are better. Is that true? How can I tell if teachers at schools that might interest me are actually working interpreters?

asked 03 Feb '12, 18:02

Luigi's gravatar image


edited 04 Apr '12, 16:53

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

Some if not most should indeed be practising interpreters (not all though, a well rounded curriculum should call upon other competences too) preferably with pedagogical credentials as well; the old chestnut "those who can... do, those who can't... teach" shouldn't apply here...and where it does the results will speak for themselves, I'm afraid! Schools should make teachers' cv's available to students and if they aren't a quick search around professional associations' sites and/or google will soon clarify that, if questioning them is unwise or unproductive.

The following HINTS declaration may also be of interest:

Declaration on Training of Conference Interpreters

In our capacity as head interpreters of national and international organizations and institutions, we, the undersigned, would like to emphasize to the competent authorities that the conference interpretation market is a global market. The quality standards by which successful conference interpreters are judged are the same the world over. There is scarcity of such highly qualified professionals, even in widely-used languages such as English, French, German and Spanish. For that reason we see an urgent need to recommend that those responsible for training conference interpreters take into account the following:

  1. Curricula should be designed and monitored by professional conference interpreters.

  2. Those in charge of the training of conference interpreters should to the greatest extent possible be professional conference interpreters themselves and work regularly for at least one major international organization.

  3. Criteria for admission and successful completion of the course should be governed exclusively by principles of quality and not of quantity. Quota systems are counter-productive.

  4. The active participation of our organizations' conference interpretation services on examination boards will help guarantee that the standards of such organizations be met and is therefore highly recommended.

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answered 06 Feb '12, 07:15

msr's gravatar image


edited 09 Oct '13, 06:14

I'd say it is just as important for an interpreting teacher to be a practicing interpreter as it is for a swimming instructor to be able to swim. How can you teach something you have never practiced yourself? However not all interpreters are good teachers. You need to be a practicing interpreter AND a trained trainer. In addition, I think any consecutive class should start with a demonstration done by the teacher. The teacher will establish his credibility and the student will know what is expected of him.

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answered 07 Apr '12, 16:12

Danielle's gravatar image


As an interpreting student I have taken all my interpreting classes from practicing interpreters and it was a real pleasure. I think it is essential for an instructor to be able to offer practical advice and share his/her interpreting stories to motivate and guide students. Besides this helps instructors to establish and maintain their credibility. That being said, I also believe that it is important to have instructors that are not professional interpreters but focus on interpreting related research. These instructors may help spot potential pitfalls and problems that may not be very obvious to practicing interpreters.

PS. One problem related to having practicing interpreters as instructors is that they may have to skip or postpone classes every now and then due to unexpected meetings, events or organizational issues.

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answered 22 Apr '12, 16:08

dilsayar's gravatar image



+1 Thanks for reminding me what it was like. I a nutshell, your comment really sums up my personal experience, too.

(23 Apr '12, 01:39) Tanja

I don't think they need to be practising interpreters as such, but I do think they need to have previously worked as interpreters, prior to their teaching position. It is quite understandable that someone who has experience in interpreting goes for a career change or just finds they cannot combine full-time teaching with interpreting. When you are taught by interpreting lecturers and some have and some do not have interpreting experience, you can definitely tell the difference. If you ask a lecturer how they would have interpreted a certain text and they cannot give you an answer, then that is not good. On the other hand, the 'proper' interpreters can model things for students and will often give practical advice.

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answered 23 Mar '12, 08:37

janrausch's gravatar image


edited 23 Mar '12, 12:39

Good point about experience.

(18 Jan '13, 07:10) Luigi

I suppose individual qualifications are slightly academic when it comes to interpreter training, it's the collegiate body that counts. In my view diversity is a good quality indicator to look out for when picking your school. At the end of the day I think interpreter training is not only about the development of skills but also about exposure to (different) role models. The more the merrier - a healthy mix of e.g. translators and interpreters should help students stay grounded.

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answered 04 Apr '12, 21:29

Tanja's gravatar image


edited 04 Apr '12, 21:39

I agree with you that interpreter training is not just about developing skills. In fact these days I find that too much stress is put on "skills" as if acquiring a bag of them is all that is needed. I'm convinced it's not.

(18 Jan '13, 07:13) Luigi

Oui, mille fois oui ! C'est d'ailleurs le critère numéro un pour choisir une école d'interprètes. Les écoles dont les enseignants ne sont pas des interprètes de conférence professionnels (mais des linguistes, des profs de langue etc.) sont à fuir. On ne peut enseigner que ce que ce que l'on maîtrise. Accepteriez-vous de vous faire opérer par un chirurgien qui a appris son métier auprès d'un professeur de biologie ?

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answered 11 Jun '13, 16:19

leprof's gravatar image


Absolutely, they should be practicing interpreters. However, they should also be able to explain their experience in terms that would be useful to the students. It requires a lot of thinking, you can not simply say: "This is how I do it. Do the same". A good teacher always sees paradigms and individual variations in students, creates the kind of pressure that is enough to make a student progress but not to break him. Each student will have his or her own individual style, so the secret is to reveal that style during interpreter training and at the same time to create a solid foundation of professionalism. Although not everyone would agree but I firmly believe that knowledge of linguistics also helps: the teacher should be able to show how language rules work in that particular text and how information is processed and interpreted by the human brain.

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answered 08 Oct '13, 22:37

Cyril%20Flerov's gravatar image

Cyril Flerov

Active interpreters will be able to bring to their students all sorts of interesting examples (subject to the respect for our principle of confidentiality) which are related to the here and now. New terminology, difficulties, terminology are in a constant flux and a professional interpreter who is active will bring a wealth of information to his/her students. Nowadays googling is easy and a prospective student may determine whether his/her future instructors are active interpreters or not.

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answered 08 Feb '12, 12:38

Vicky%20Massa's gravatar image

Vicky Massa

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question asked: 03 Feb '12, 18:02

question was seen: 9,607 times

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