A Day in the Life of an Interpreter

Jul 9, 2024 4:24:26 PM | A Day in the Life of an Interpreter

Explore a day in the life of an interpreter, uncovering the challenges, rewards, and crucial role they play in bridging communication gaps.

Being an interpreter is one of the most rewarding careers out there—but it's also one of the toughest. Sign language interpreters, in particular, have never been more visible than they are now, and both sign language and foreign language interpreters perform their jobs in much the same way.


What Does an Interpreter Do?

So, what does an interpreter's day look like? Interpreters work in various settings and meet many different people. Their days are almost never the same, often involving a lot of time spent in their cars, zipping from one assignment to another.

Most interpreters review their calendars regularly, but knowing your schedule for the next day is crucial. They travel from place to place, going wherever effective communication is needed. An interpreter may spend many hours with one person or at one facility, filling their day, or they may go to several different places. They can drive around the corner or over an hour to get to their assignment. It’s imperative for interpreters to review their calendars to ensure they have enough travel time and to navigate large facilities. Being late is not an option, and arriving early is always preferred.


On the Job

Upon arriving at an assignment, interpreters notify the facility and locate the consumer they will be interpreting for. They introduce themselves and ensure effective communication by asking the consumer how they prefer to communicate. Some consumers prefer a specific dialect or signs in English word order instead of grammatically correct ASL. Knowing these preferences is crucial for effective communication.

During assignments, interpreters facilitate communication between non-English speakers and English speakers or between deaf and hearing individuals. Once an assignment is complete, they move on to the next one. Interpreters often eat in their cars between assignments or alone at a restaurant. Throughout the day, they receive job offers and must decide whether to accept them based on their schedule and other factors.


Adhering to Professional Standards

While on an assignment, interpreters must adhere to their Code of Professional Conduct or Code of Ethics. This ensures confidentiality, freedom of choice for the parties involved, and accurate interpretation of discussions. They do not add information or opinions to their interpretations and will not advise the consumer on decision-making. Interpreters can act as cultural mediators if misunderstandings arise from cultural perspectives. They are invaluable members of the communication process.


Behind the Scenes

When their day is complete, interpreters invoice the agencies or individual clients they worked for. Payment can take from a couple of weeks to two months, depending on the client.

An interpreter's job often starts well before the assignment. They may review speeches or classroom material to ensure they know the appropriate vocabulary, or they might need to learn about a topic to make interpreting easier. This preparation time is generally uncompensated, but professional interpreters take great care to ensure they have the necessary skills and information.

Additionally, interpreters may need to prepare for emotionally charged or stressful assignments. Being the voice of a person is not always easy, and interpreters may have to decompress after difficult assignments. Seeking professional help can be beneficial for managing stress and emotional fatigue.


Versatile and Essential

Interpreters work in medical and mental health appointments, legal situations, classrooms, theaters, and even on TV. They must be organized, self-motivated, and detail-oriented. A reliable car with good gas mileage is also a plus!

Interpreters are often the most necessary but least wanted person in the room. Generally, people do not want someone to intercede in their conversations, but when language barriers exist, interpreters are essential to ensure effective communication and autonomy in conversations and decision-making.

Being an interpreter is a challenging yet rewarding profession that requires dedication, skill, and empathy. They are the bridge that connects worlds, facilitating understanding and communication across diverse languages and cultures.

Dawn Flanigan

Written By: Dawn Flanigan