Forum for New Interpreters

Have you recently finished an interpreting program? Are you looking for the next steps to begin your career as an interpreter? New to the field and have questions you need answered? This forum is specifically meant to help new interpreters like yourself with questions and issues you may have along the path of developing a strong interpreting career.

The EIS staff or one of our Certified Interpreters will answer all questions you have. In addition, each week one question/answer will be chosen and posted here. Past questions are archived here.

Does EIS work with the deaf/blind population? If so, will I need a special certification and/or training to work with deaf/blind?"

We asked our most experienced Interpreter working with the Deaf/Blind population to answer, Amy Lynne CI/CT:

This is a great question and also exciting because so many interpreters are afraid to even attempt tactile interpreting with deaf/blind consumers.  I'm not aware of any special certifications available for tactile interpreters however additional training would be a bonus. The Helen Keller National Center on Long Island offers training through seminars and workshops. 

While not an absolute requirement to take on training through the HKNC it would definitely be a great learning experience and look fabulous on a resume! Empire Interpreting also has a mentoring program and could arrange to have an experienced tactile interpreter mentor someone interested in learning more about how to work with the deaf/blind population.

I started learning Spanish in High School and then decided to major in Spanish at college. Once I receive my Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Literature, will I be qualified to start Interpreting professionally?

A Bachelor’s degree in your target language is a great start to becoming an Interpreter. However, becoming fluent in another language takes years of practice and daily use to be considered a professional linguist. Linguists are fluent and able to understand cultural nuances that arise during conversations.

In addition to fluency in at least two languages, a Professional Interpreter takes specific training/education on the roles of the Interpreter and the ethical guidelines that are required of Interpreters.

Most Interpreters decide to specialize the services they offer by focusing their training in a particular area such as legal, medical or educational. By not providing a broad array of interpreting services, an Interpreter can focus and become an expert in the terminology that is often used. In the case of an Interpreter, it is best to know a lot about one specific area, versus knowing a little about many areas. This way the LEP consumers are always receiving the highest quality language assistance services available versus only understanding part of the message that is being interpreted.

EIS’s recommendation to you would be to consider obtaining your Masters at a college that specializes in interpreting and translation and then indulge yourself in the local Spanish speaking community to familiarize yourself with their culture. It would also be a good idea to consider what area of interpreting you are most interested in and then find ways to learn the lingo. If it is medical, take medical terminology classes. If it is legal, sign up for classes required of paralegals. Then register for more specialized interpreter conferences or trainings in those particular areas. By following these steps, you will learn the process of interpreting and increase your knowledge of Spanish.

Below is a link that holds recommendations for individuals who would like to become Interpreters. Use this as a guide to help you develop your steps towards becoming a professional Interpreter: New Interpreters.

Corissa Widger, Director of Spoken Languages
Empire Interpreting Service, LLC

I’ve taken some classes in sign language, can I be an Interpreter?

Becoming an interpreter requires at least an Associate degree from an interpreting program. However, most programs are now requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher. Not only is the degree necessary, you have to be extremely fluent, have proper training, field experience, and knowledge of deaf culture.

If your previous classes have thoroughly interested you, maybe it is time to consider taking the steps necessary to become an interpreter. The best place to start is finding a college that offers Sign Language Interpreting. A couple of the most highly regarded colleges include Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. and National Technology Institute for the Deaf (NTID) in Rochester, NY.

I know sign language, why do I need to get a degree?

There is a lot more to being an interpreter then simply being fluent in sign language. Interpreters also need to be professional, have excellent public speaking techniques, and knowledge of the interpreting profession, code of ethics, and deaf culture. Without additional education, these minimums cannot be met.

I've worked as an interpreter before without a degree, why do I need one now?

Like everything else, laws change with time. Professional organizations that serve the Deaf community decided that a certification process was necessary. The primary reason for this was to achieve the “three Q’s” of interpreting, “Quantity, Qualifications, and Quality”. Without these three combined, communication barriers cannot be eliminated.

Getting Certified

How do I get certified?

The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) is the primary national organization that certifies interpreters. There are also certification/screening systems available for select individual states. Each certification process includes a written test and a performance test. More information on testing procedures and dates can be obtained from the RID website.

Why do I need to pass a certification test?

Without the certification process, there would not be any method to regulate who qualifies for becoming a professional interpreter. In addition, the quality of the translation could not be guaranteed.

How much time does it take to pass the certification test?

Some interpreters are able to pass the Certification test immediately after graduating college. However, the majority require 2 to 4 years of experience in the field after graduation to be fully prepared to pass the test.

How much does it cost to get certified?

The total cost for certification varies depending on what particular certification you are seeking and whether you are a member of the organization or not. If you are not currently a member, the estimated cost for the certification process is around $800. Being a member can save an estimated amount of $200.
This is my first full year as a free-lance Interpreter. Any suggestions for end-of-the-year preparation of taxes, filing, etc?
October/November is always a good time to set up a meeting with your CPA to discuss where your tax liability stands. It’s much easier to begin preparing now for what you may owe next April 15th than to be blindsided in March. He/she should be able to help you maximize your deductions and give you a good feel as to where you stand financially.

Ask for a schedule of estimated state and federal taxes for next year. Since this is your first year interpreting,  you probably have made no estimated deposits. A good rule of thumb is to put away 30% of each check you receive for interpreting.  Deposit this money in either a savings account or interest bearing money market to be in hold for your taxes due. Again, your CPA can set up estimated deposits beginning next year.

There are several things you can do to assist your CPA and help you reduce your tax liability:
  • Double check that all your mileage has been accounted for. You can do that by checking your calendar against your mileage logged. Don’t forget those trips to the bank, post office, Staples, etc. that are business related.
  • Get all of your billing out before the end of the year. This will ensure nothing owed to you will go into the following year’s receivables.
  • Make business purchases prior to year’s end;  a laptop, GPS, dataphone, etc.
  • Pull all of your receipts and organize them into files that are easily accessible.
  • Remember your home office is deductible and additionally a portion of your home utilities. You will need all of those bills for your CPA along with the % of your home/apt that your office occupies.
  • Pay any business-related expenses before the end of the year including your health insurance, car maintenance, business credit card bills, professional liability insurance, etc.
The best advice is to set in place a system to track expenses and have a solid CPA that understands your business. Good luck and here’s to a prosperous 2011!

Theresa Slater, President
Empire Interpreting Service, LLC
WBENC - Women Certified Business