Myths About Interpreting

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.

Court Interpreter Certification

Although not every state requires its courts to use certified interpreters, getting certified is becoming an increasingly prudent step in a court interpreter’s career. Certification not only makes interpreters more sought-after and credible, but recent amendments to state courts’ legislation have also been making certified interpreters the preferred choice of courts.

The amendments made to the Florida Rules for Certification and Regulation of Court Interpreters in March of last year serve as a good example. It was then that the “certified interpreter designation” was established as the “preferred designation when selecting court-appointed interpreters, arranging for contractual interpreter services, and making staff hiring decisions.” The same rule was implemented by the Michigan courts in 2013. It says that, “whenever practicable,” the court shall appoint a certified foreign language interpreter.

Certified court interpreters also benefit by being listed in their states’ online interpreter registries, which make the interpreters more visible and accessible to potential clients.

But before one can enjoy the benefits of being certified, they must first pass a court certification exam.

Not all states require court interpreters to undergo training before taking the certification exam. However, statistics from the California courts indicate that 92% of those who passed the oral certification exam had completed interpreter training prior to taking the test.

IEO’s Preparatory Course for the Court Certification Exam is ideal for any interpreter who plans on taking their state’s court certification exam. The course prepares for both the written and oral portions of the exam and is language specific.

Begin your training today and take the first step in becoming a certified court interpreter!

When Interpreters Cross The Line

Whether you’re a court or medical interpreter, the consequences of unethical behavior can be very serious, not to mention costly. For example, an interpreter who doesn’t follow the protocols and standards of their profession can risk ruining their career and force a hospital or court to spend additional resources finding another interpreter. This, in turn, can hinder an LEP individual from receiving meaningful access to quality healthcare or the justice system.

Nonetheless, and unfortunately, ethical violations still occur. These instances raise concerns about the rigidity of the qualifications for becoming an interpreter and perhaps point to certification as a requirement in the future.

Here are some recent examples of unethical interpreters:

– In May of this year, a Louisiana interpreter was indicted on five counts of wire fraud. The interpreter was accused of contacting clients of the Public Defender’s Office and getting them to make illegal payments to her by saying they would be deported if they did not.

– An Australian interpreter admitted to influencing a voter to vote for a particular candidate. However, the criminal charge against the interpreter was later dismissed because they were not an election official and, thus, not subject to the penalties.

– In Washington, an interpreter was charged with felony theft for defrauding the state. According to court papers, the interpreter overbilled the state for mileage and appointments that never happened.

There are many resources available to help interpreters become acquainted with or maintain the ethical codes of conduct. Ethics courses are available for both court interpreters and medical interpreters that contain the standards and protocols of each profession. These courses contain hypothetical scenarios that challenge an interpreter’s knowledge of the various ethical canons and present solutions to dilemmas that interpreters commonly encounter in the field.

Likewise, training guides for court and medical interpreters are also available so that the code of ethics can easily be referred to when interpreters are on assignments.

Interpreters who follow the code of ethics not only uphold high standards of professionalism, but they also help improve the quality and consistency of the interpreting profession.

Types of People You’ll Meet At Interpreters & Translators Conferences

One of the fun things about attending a conference is meeting lots of interesting people. They come from all over the globe, speak many different languages, and have unique personalities. Their reasons for being at the conference vary as well.

Check out the list below of the different types of attendees you’ll encounter at a conference. Can you relate to any of them? Let us know on our Facebook page!


The Professional

The Professional

Nobody knows conferences better than the professional interpreter and translator. After all, they’ve been going to conferences for years. They may even be a part of a committee or two. A conference not only allows them to satisfy their continuing education requirements, but they’ll also be able to catch up with colleagues and friends and get updated on the industry.


The Learner

The Learner

Conferences are an information sponge’s dream, and rightfully so! With so many presentations on a wide range of topics, there is plenty to learn. You’ll be able to spot the learner quite easily. Running from session to session so as not to be late for one, the learner can be seen holding a to-go coffee in one hand and a smartphone, notebook, and pen in the other. The learner is a note-taking pro and is never afraid to ask questions.


The Businessperson

The Businessperson
When going to a conference, the goal of the businessperson is simple: to make money. This can be achieved a few ways. They can interact with people whom they can pitch and sell their product to. As a freelancer, they can pass along their resume or business card. The businessperson can also use conferences as an opportunity to establish partnerships and relationships with other businesspeople.


The Intelligence Operative

The Intelligence Operative

Conferences bring all types of language companies together under one roof. Whether they’re selling services, training programs, or software, it’s inevitable that representatives from these companies will be checking out their competition. These intelligence operatives will gather information, even posing as potential customers, by asking questions and collecting a rival’s marketing materials.


The Social Butterfly

The Social Butterfly

What better way to put your charisma on display than at a conference full of people? The social butterfly knows this better than anyone. They’re a networking machine with a gregarious personality that helps them make contacts, acquire leads, and close deals. Warm and friendly, the social butterfly makes great impressions and is hard to forget. They are the ultimate schmoozer.

Upcoming Events

It’s July and that means the weather is getting hot! What better way for interpreters and translators to stay cool (and be cool) than to attend an event?

Check out the list below of some upcoming conferences and seminars. Be sure to click on each organization’s logo for more information.

Have an event that you want us to mention on our events page or social media? Contact us and let us know!


NATI 2015 16th Annual Regional Conference
July 30 – August 1, Bellevue, Nebraska

NATI partial logo

Legal Interpreting Seminar
Arkansas Administrative Office of the Courts
July 31 – August 2, Little Rock, Arkansas

2015 RID National Conference
August 8 – 12, New Orleans, Louisiana

Rid logo

9th Annual TAHIT Symposium on Language Access
September 25 – 26, Galveston, Texas


2015 MiTiN Regional Conference on Interpreting and Translation
October 3, Novi, Michigan

Mitin Logo

56th Annual ATA Conference
November 4-7, Miami, Florida

ATA logo


Revolutionary Interpreters

On July 4th, Americans will celebrate the 239th anniversary of their nation’s independence from Great Britain. And like many other historical world events, interpreters were key in making it happen. This is in large part due to the collaboration between the colonies and the native tribes during the revolution, though interpreters for languages such as French and German were also elemental. Here are just a few figures whose interpreting ability aided American independence.

James Dean
As a young man, James Dean (no relation to cinema icon) was sent to live amongst the Oneida, a people of the Iriqouis Confederacy. He quickly and skillfully learned their language, along with other Iriquois tongues, and became an interpreter for the Patriots during the war. He also played a large part in negotiating land deals between the Native Americans and the colonists.

Haym Salomon
Haym Salomon, born in Poland, immigrated to America and worked as a financial broker in New York City while financing the Revolution. He was captured by the British and was pardoned because of his ability to interpret for the German-speaking troops that sided with the British. Ever the Patriot, he used this opportunity to free prisoners captured by the British and persuade  German troops to desert.

John Montour
The son of an interpreter, John Montour carried on his father’s legacy. This was facilitated by the fact that his mother was Delaware, a tribe native to the Delaware Valley. In 1778, Montour lived with the Wyandot in the Sandusky River Valley. Having this connection with the Wyandot allowed the Americans to cross their territory and march against the British in Detroit. His ability to communicate with Native American tribes proved instrumental before, during, and after the revolution, even if his loyalties wavered.

James Lovell
James Lovell was a member of Congress and the Committee of Secret Correspondence, a committee assembled to gain French aid during the revolution. He acted as an interpreter for the French officers arriving in Philadelphia, the seat of the Second Continental Congress.

Alexander Hamilton
Apart from being the Secretary of the Treasury during the Washington administration and decorating the American ten dollar bill, Alexander Hamilton served as George Washington’s French interpreter. With France as an ally, transparent communication was crucial.

Interpreting Jokes

It goes without saying that interpreters have to jump a variety of linguistic hurdles while on assignments, of which some are harder to prepare for than others. Perhaps the most daunting of circumstances for an interpreter is a joke. While jokes can do a lot of good, if misinterpreted they can fall flat, or worse, offend. But there’s a way to go about handling them.

Given that a joke’s humor lies in word play or a cultural reference, interpreting it word for word will likely elicit a lot of head scratching, as this video demonstrates. Instead, an interpreter should determine the purpose of the joke and relay the speaker’s intent to the target language audience. Sometimes, this means explaining what was funny about the joke by quickly providing context. While this strategy may seem to defeat the purpose of a joke, it will help prevent your audience from being confused or insulted. Interpreters must realize that to accept a joke as uninterpretable is not to accept failure.

joke minister

Whether you’re bold enough to try and replicate a joke in another language, or you want to play it safe by explaining the joke and its context, it’s crucial to stay sharp by always improving your vocabulary in your target language. Keep your mind agile by becoming familiar with translations of industry-relevant jargon, commonly-used proverbs, and idiomatic expressions.

At IEO, we want you to have the skills to successfully interpret a joke, not become the punchline of one.

Have you ever had to interpret a joke or get creative during an interpreting assignment in order to explain one? Share your experiences with us on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages!

The Super Interpreter

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… Super Interpreter! Here to save the day by breaking down language barriers, displaying cultural awareness, and upholding interpreter ethics!

Interpreters of the world! Do you have what it takes to be a Super Interpreter? You might be surprised to know that you don’t need washboard abs or the ability to talk to dolphins, but can instead reach superhero-like status with a well-developed skill set and a number of tools

The Super Interpreter is not a costumed do-gooder, but a do-gooder all the same; one that helps people in need without having to leap over buildings in a single bound. They may not don a tool belt, but the Super Interpreter still relies on several tools to help them overcome challenges. In the face of lexical adversity, they can reach for their trusty bilingual dictionary that is stored on their smartphone for quick retrieval of a word. When bombarded with information, the Super Interpreter stays on top of things by taking notes with a pen and paper or on their tablet.

They possess various powers that make for swift interpretation, thanks to an ever-expanding multilingual lexicon and a keen sense of cultural awareness. They can find an idiom’s appropriate equivalent in a target language with unshakeable composure and are capable of switching between each of the three modes of interpreting with the greatest of ease. And what’s more, they do all this while faithfully abiding by the interpreter code of ethics, because every superhero needs a code. And just as they need a code, they need training.

Let IEO help to bring out the Super Interpreter in you by strengthening your skills and showing you how to avoid interpreter kryptonite!

Cape and spandex are optional.

Preparing for the Court Interpreter Written Exam

Thinking about becoming a certified court interpreter? If so, you might be interested to know that the certification test for court interpreters is divided into two parts: an oral and a written portion. You must pass the written exam before you can take the oral part. The written exam for court interpreters is pretty standard from state to state. However, each state has its own set of prerequisites that interpreters must meet before they can take the written exam. For example, some states require that you pay a fee for the written exam while others do not. We recommend that you check your state’s courts website for more information. In addition, you might find it helpful to check out the overview of the written exam.

The written exam is a multiple-choice test that covers ethics, English language proficiency, and court terminology. The test is entirely in English.

To get you ready for the test, IEO offers  Preparatory Course for the Written Exam that includes:

– over 600 questions that test a student’s English proficiency.

– 15 legal glossaries with over 1,000 legal terms and definitions that familiarize students with court terminology.

– videos and chapters illustrating correct interpretation of ethical canons as well as quizzes that measure a student’s knowledge of court interpreter ethics & professional conduct.


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