As interpreters, you’re probably familiar with the following myths, however, some may catch you by surprise. If you have a myth about interpreting you’d like to add to this list, share it on our Facebook page!
1.) “Any bilingual speaker can be an interpreter.”
This is the most common misconception that non-interpreters have. Sure, you might know how to ask, “Where is the bathroom?”, but are you familiar with complex legal and medical terminology in that language as well? Does simply speaking another language make you aware of different interpreter codes of ethics and how to react in certain scenarios?
2.) “Being an interpreter is easy.”
Guess again. Can you simultaneously interpret a U.N. Speech at 150 words per minute without any errors? Would you be able to keep your emotions in check when interpreting for a family whose young child has just died? Do you think you’d be able to pass a court or medical interpreter certification exam with ease?
3.) “Interpreters don’t require much training.”
Not true. Every profession requires training, and interpreting is no different. Nobody is born equipped with a list of court interpreter or medical interpreter ethics. Likewise, most people don’t have the mental juggling ability or note-taking skills that interpreters need. These are techniques that must be learned and perfected throughout an interpreter’s career.
4.) “Interpreters are not affected by what they interpret.”
Known as vicarious trauma, interpreters can actually change over time as a result of witnessing the suffering and pain of others. If interpreters aren’t careful, they can experience an emotional breakdown.
5.) “Interpreting can’t be made into a real career.”
False. According to the Department of Labor, interpreting is one of the fastest growing fields and will remain so for many years to come. Training and certification, along with standardization of the profession, will help interpreters working in many languages to find stable, full-time opportunities as freelancers or employees in healthcare, law, business and other fields.