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Interpreters help people from different cultures to communicate effectively, in spite of language differences by translating orally what one person has said into a language that others can understand.

Simultaneous interpreters translate a speaker's words into a second language while the words are still being spoken, where simultaneous equipment is not available at conferences. At international and national conferences, consecutive interpreters wait until a speaker pauses, then translate what has been said up to that point. Interpreters may work in government departments, legislatures, the national parliament, embassies and courtrooms.

All interpreters must study the cultural, historical and political backgrounds of the people whose languages they interpret in order to best understand the meaning of their words. Working conditions are generally excellent.

Simultaneous interpreters usually work at international conferences in comfortable glass booths that are placed so that the interpreter will have a good view of everything that goes on in the conference hall. Delegates are then able to receive the translation by means of earphones.

Consecutive interpreters work in courtrooms, hospitals, embassies and in consulates.

Interpreters differ from translators in that interpreters concentrate on the spoken language, or signed language if interpreting from or into South African Sign Language (SASL), and on the emotions and attitude of the speaker, while the translator deals with written language.

Satisfying Aspects
- good working conditions such as at international conferences
- being a link in communication between people speaking different languages
- the chance to travel or to live in a foreign country

Demanding aspects
- the total concentration that often leads to tension
- studying constantly to keep up with new developments in the countries whose languages are spoken
- making the occasional embarrassing mistake

An interpreter should:
- be trustworthy and responsible as incorrect interpretations may have far-reaching consequences;
- have extrovert character;
- be patient and tactful;
- have a good command of languages and fluency in speech;
- have good hearing and a clear voice.

Disabled people who can see, write and move about comfortably can also be successful interpreters.
Blind people can make suitable telephone interpreters.

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate.

Compulsory Subjects: None
Recommended Subjects: Two or more languages

Degree: a BA degree with languages can be useful as a background. The Department of Justice offers training courses to all new court interpreters on a fairly regular basis. UNISA also offers a BA with specilization in court interpreting. University courses in foreign languages may be necessary for other interpreter positions.

Training as a court interpreter involves undergoing a language test. Successful candidates are appointed temporarily and work under the supervision of a chief court interpreter. They must pass a further language test administered by the inspector of interpreters to be appointed to probation. After the probation period of 12 months they attend a theoretical and practical course. On completion of the course the interpreter is allowed to work independently.

- International political organizations (the United Nations in particular)
- Embassies and consulates
- Government (in law courts)
- Tourism industry
- Freelance work
- National and international conferences
- Self-employment, as a freelance interpreter

The South African Translators’ Institute
P O Box 1710
Rivonia, 2128
Tel: 079 492-9359 Fax: 086 511 4971