1. “Any bilingual speaker can be an interpreter”
This should be obvious, but it is worth repeating that not anyone who is bilingual can be an interpreter. Bilingual speakers may be fluent in more than one language, but that does not make them an interpreter. Being an interpreter requires extensive training. Not only do you need to master translation techniques, you also need to be able to deconstruct the linguistic components of a language in order to accurately and clearly translate from one language to another. Bilingual speakers may be fluent in two languages, but they usually struggle when trying to convey a message from one language to the other. This is what interpreters are trained for. Moreover, interpreters work hard to master industry-specific vocabulary, so they can interpret in legal or medical settings for example. Bilingual speakers usually do not have industry-specific jargon as part of their everyday vocabulary. Another thing that sets interpreters apart from bilingual speakers is that interpreters are aware of the deontology of their profession. Interpreters are aware of their role and are able to mediate the interaction in a way that avoids any type of bias or misunderstanding to guarantee an optimal exchange of information between two parties. Abiding by this specific code of ethics is a practice most bilingual speakers are unaware of.
2. “Technology is reducing the need for interpreters”
With the rise in automation and artificial intelligence, it has been said more than once that technology is reducing the need for interpreters. Some say it might even eliminate the need for interpreters altogether. However, that notion could not be further from the truth. Interpreting is one of the few professions that has not been affected by automation. On the contrary, it has created more interpreting jobs than ever. With globalization, the world is more connected than it has ever been. Businesses are becoming increasingly international, which means there is a growing need for interpreters as well. Companies need to be able to communicate across their global offices, they need to be able to communicate with their international client base, and they need to be able to communicate with other companies around the globe. Aside from multilingual communication, technology has just not come far enough yet to pose a serious threat to interpreting jobs. If you want to read more about this topic, then check out another blog post of ours on why technology won’t be replacing interpreters anytime soon.
3. “Translators can be interpreters”
Translating and interpreting are terms that are often used interchangeable by the general public, but they are two very different activities. The two main differences between translating and interpreting is that translation is written and interpretation is verbal, and that translation does not occur under severe time constraints in the way interpretation does. As interpreters translate verbally, they need to pay attention to their pronunciation, intonation, pace and general oral expression. These are elements translators usually needn’t worry about. Interpreters also have to be able to translate in real-time whereas translators have more time to find the perfect translation for a specific word or phrase. Another major difference between translators and interpreters is that translators do not have to be able to mediate and manage the interactions between two parties. For interpreters, this is a key component of their assignment. So given the specific skill set that is required to be a good interpreter, it is safe to say that translators cannot be interpreters.
4. “Interpreters are too expensive”
Interpreter rates depend on a number of variables (read more about interpreter pricing here). Generally, however, in-person interpreters typically cost $50 – $145 per hour and interpreters that are phoned in usually charge around $2 per minute. For many businesses, this is considered to be too expensive. Small businesses usually rely on an acquaintance or somebody in-house that happens to speak the right language to do the job. It goes without saying that this is a big mistake. When negotiating a deal, when communicating with prospective clients or even when communicating in-house, mistranslation can lead to misunderstanding, which can lead to losses that are potentially greater than if you had hired an actual interpreter. Business deals have fallen through purely because of bad translation or because the so-called interpreter was simply not able to properly translate the terms of the negotiation. The takeaway here, in other words: don’t save on the essentials of your business, or it might cost you dearly.
5. “We all speak English. We don’t need interpreters”
The need for interpreters is often waved off because people believe they will understand each other just fine. Most often, this occurs when both parties are able to speak (some) English. Once the small talk is over and both parties get into the nitty-gritty of the topic of conversation, they quickly realize their proficiency in the common language is not sufficient. This tends to happen when negotiating the specifics of a business deal, when going over technical details, when discussing the legal aspects of an operation, or simply when a concept from their native language is too hard for them to translate into the common tongue. As we mentioned earlier, not everyone is capable of being a translator or interpreter, so don’t hesitate to hire a professional to do what they do best so you can focus on what is important to you.