What Makes a Good Interpreter?
To become a good interpreter is the aspiration cherished by every student of English. Then, what are the necessary qualities that make a good interpreter?
In order to get the answer, we have to understand the nature of work of an interpreter.
The work of an interpreter is to reproduce orally in another language what has just been said. To put in another way, it is oral translation on the spot. Interpretation can be consecutive, that is, reproduction after the speaker has stopped, or simultaneous, that is ,at the same time as the speaker is speaking. Therefore, special requirements arise from the special nature of interpretation. Some veteran interpreters have summarized the requirements of interpretation as "accurate, quick and smooth".
Obviously, a correct understanding and reproduction of the speaker"s meaning comes first, because an interpreter is merely a medium among speakers of different languages in their communication. At the same time, an interpreter must be quick in his/her work. They must not delay. Their interpretation should be smooth so that it can be readily understood. To achieve accuracy in interpretation, an interpreter must comprehend correctly in the first place. Together with smooth reproduction, it is not difficult to see that a good command of English (or other languages) and Chinese is the "prerequisite condition. A clear pronunciation and intonation are crucial for an interpreter. However, the achievement of speed needs special training.
One of the difficulties lies in memory. Many students complain that they cannot remember what has just been said. Here, note-taking may help. Note-taking serves as an aid to memory on the spot, so you do not have to take down every word being spoken which is both impossible and unnecessary. You only need to take down the key words which represent the main ideas and of course, numbers and figures. Your note must have a clear presentation or pattern which indicates the logical development of the speaker"s ideas. This is important because it will help your interpretation sensible and coherent. Besides, symbols, abbreviations and diagrams may also be used to make your note-taking faster.
To integrate correct comprehension, proper memory and quick reproduction demands high concentration and quick reaction. This is a process which requires the simultaneous working of one"s heart, mind and hand. This is where intensive training comes in. A former trainee of the UN Interpreter is made by the tape hours she has had which means that the more hours you have had been practicing by listening to tapes and interpreting, the more competent you become.
Wide-ranging knowledge is as important as the command of languages." To know something about everything under the sun" is another motto interpreters observe. You have to concern yourself with what is happening at home and abroad all the time. You should constantly broaden your horizon and improve your comprehension and interpretation.
Lastly, good manners and a strong sense of responsibility are also necessary qualities of an interpreter.
Based on the above discussion, we may conclude that a good interpreter"s competence is many-faceted. To him/her, challenges are constant and hence, self-improvement must be consistent.