10 Qualities Every Interpreter Should Have


Interpreting is largely different from plain translation because it is based on the spoken rather than the written form of translation. Of course, it is also more difficult in many aspects. Not everyone has qualities that are needed for an interpreter, but everyone can develop them. A face-to-face or phone translation encompasses a set of skills that you may get by hard work and training. Read on and see if you have all 10 necessary qualities for an interpreter.

1. Be a good listener

Interpreting is all about listening to every word said. Therefore, have strong listening skills and attention to other people’s words. You don’t want to get them wrong.

2. Have an extensive vocabulary

Often, interpreters find themselves in a situation where they can’t look into the dictionary. They have to fetch everything from their memory, so you need to know lots of vocabulary to work as an interpreter.

3. Develop good motor, cognitive, and motor skills

You need to be fast to be an interpreter. People speak and think fast, and so should you. If you still have trouble with that, pick the best translation services online and try to work freelance on less difficult projects. The good news is, the speed can be achieved by training and experience.

4. Know the culture

When you are interpreting for a Japanese person, you may see them not ending a sentence. Still, your French client won’t understand that ellipsis. Be sure to understand the culture of both to interpret well.

5. Be stress-resistant

Often, you will work in stressful conditions. Therefore, you need to learn to relax to stay calm and unbiased while you interpret. The mind of an interpreter should be cool and resilient.

6. Be curious

If you don’t have a base of general knowledge and many interests, it would be harder for you to stay focused in unpredictable situations.

7. Show precision but also creativity

Of course, an interpreter can translate word for word. Still, professional interpreters do not do this. They preserve the original meaning of the message but may paraphrase it so that the person will get everything right.

8. Be punctual

Usually, people who you interpret for have a shortage of time. They are business people who don’t like to wait. Thus, you shouldn’t be late on any occasion.

9. Concentrate

When you interpret, all the rest should disappear. You must concentrate on the current conversation, because otherwise, you may miss the point.

10. Dress to the occasion

When you are interpreting in-person, you should maintain business-like looks and wear smart clothes that still must be restrained. The same goes for your overall looks. They should be tidy and fit the situation.

Being an interpreter is hard but rewarding. You need to have the ability to concentrate and have a large attention span. Of course, you should be curious about culture, language, and people you interpret for. Also, a true interpreter should be precise but yet inventive to handle any situation and translation of any difficulty. Finally, an interpreter should maintain business looks and be resilient, because you are likely to experience difficult situations.


Mark Blackwood is a linguist who is fond of translation of many kinds. He has many hobbies, but hiking and traveling are some of his favorites. To stay focused, he likes to do sport and read books.


Leave A Comment