If you are fluent in two or more languages, you can apply to become either an interpreter or a translator. A translator converts text from one language into another language. An interpreter translates oral language back and forth so that it can be understood by parties who speak different languages. An interpreter may also translate sign language for people who are deaf. Being a good interpreter or translator, however, involves more than just translating a language.
Familiarize yourself with the culture from which the language you are interpreting originates. This will help you to better understand the person for whom you are interpreting so that you can make his words and meaning more clear.
Study vocabulary words for both languages consistently. This is especially important when translating documents.
Take notes and study the subject matter in which you will be required to translate or interpret. For example, If your job is to interpret at a conference on heart disease, it will be helpful to obtain a copy of the agenda so that you can research any words or concepts with which you are currently unfamiliar.
Practice good communication and customer service skills. Your goal is to make both parties feel comfortable with one another while you help to express their wants and needs. An interpreter also needs to be able to be comfortable in many environments. You may be required to work in a school, a courtroom or a hospital.
Volunteer to gain more experience and to keep your skills sharp. Social services offices, hospitals, churches and private organizations appreciate help from interpreters and translators. Some jobs also require several years of experience, which you can obtain through volunteering on a regular basis.
Attain a certification, which demonstrates that you have attained proficiency. You can receive certification through the American Translators Association, the federal court, the state court and the National Association of the Deaf. In addition, the U.S. Department of State issues certification for Navajo, Haitian Creole and Spanish interpreters.
Keep up to date with the latest translation software if you are working on important documents.
Accept an internship, which is another way to gain additional experience translating or interpreting.