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Are Chinese interpreters born or made?

All of us who work in Chinese interpreting have asked ourselves this question at some point in our career. My answer is without doubt that Chinese interpreters are made and that the process never ends. Does this mean that everyone can be a Chinese interpreter? Of course not, just as we can't all be astrophysicists in this life.


At best, the profile of the future Chinese interpreter should meet certain requirements. Any examples?


To have an encyclopedic curiosity for subjects that are not (only) those that occupy our leisure time, but for EVERYTHING that appears before our eyes and want to know what is happening in the world.



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Not faint or shiver when speaking in front of an audience of more than 5 people (your parents, siblings, grandparents and cousins don't count, sorry!).


Have a good command of at least English and Chinese and know the culture of the countries in which they are spoken. It is not necessary to have a bilingual level of the foreign language, but it is essential to have an almost total understanding of it.


However, in order to move from that desirable profile to becoming a professional Chinese interpreter, two things are required: specific training and experience. It is clear that the second is a consequence of the first, so we have to start with training.


Is training that important? Yes, and we explained it to you with a specific case that was raised in a translation forum. An agency had offered an English>Chinese interpreting assignment to a new Chinese translator for a medical conference to be held a year later (so far in advance, it's almost a lie!). This girl had no experience in acting and, although she had her doubts, she wanted to accept the offer. While it's true that a year is a long time to prepare for a complicated subject, it doesn't allow you to master the techniques at the level required in such a situation. Even the most experienced professional Chinese interpreters often reject medical interpretations because of their extreme difficulty. It's like not knowing how to drive and wanting to win a Formula 1 race in a year's time.


Are Chinese interpreters born or made?


In this life you have to jump in, it's very clear, but always with a parachute. Where do you sell parachutes for future Chinese interpreters? In master's degrees or interpreting courses. Master's degrees in conference interpreting are undoubtedly the most complete option, but you still don't know 100% if interpreting is going to be your future. In that case, you might want to sign up for an interpreting course to see if you really like it and if it's worth investing your time and money in a master's degree. If your mother tongue is Chinese and you want to work with English, German, Italian, Portuguese or French, you may want to take a look at the consecutive and simultaneous interpretation courses offered by YBD Translations.


Once you have mastered the techniques of each type of interpreting, you can be encouraged to take on a job that is not too complicated (at first you can even work with an NGO, why not?). It's always best to start by knowing the basic techniques of consecutive interpreting before you jump in with simultaneous interpreting. Returning to the example above, if you start with a simultaneous one at a specialized medical congress, you probably don't want to go near a microphone again in life. You'll have plenty of time to increase your difficulty and deal with more complicated Chinese interpretations. In other words, get your license and start driving on the road in your neighborhood like everyone else. For Formula 1, you'd better wait a while!



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