Being an international business interpreter can be an exciting profession, especially when your duties require you to travel around the world, meeting and interacting with others, in order to enhance business negotiations for your company and/or clients. That being said, there is a tremendous amount of responsibility involved. In addition to language fluency, business interpreters must be very aware of the more subtle language and cultural nuances that affect business communication and negotiations for both parties. Interpreters must also have the ability and flexibility to travel and be away from home for extended periods of time.
According to O*NET Online, a partner of the American Job Center Network, the median salary for interpreters and translators is $45,430, however, many business interpreters make significantly higher salaries, depending on the availability of other interpreters for that language, their skill and experience level, and their clients’ budgets. Also, their travel and board expenses are included while they are working, which can be an added bonus for those who love to travel. The expected job growth through 2020 is 29 percent or higher, which is greater than average.
The following are some of the duties expected of an international interpreter.
Speaking and Listening
The most important role a business interpreter plays is one of listening and speaking. Professional translators must have an incredible amount of focus in order to listen carefully, and accurately convey, the spoken word of their clients and the clients’ business associates. Business fluency is an entirely different level of language fluency, and a translator must be able to quickly and precisely synthesize the spoken word of two languages in order to communicate complex ideas as accurately as possible.
Language is only a part of the communication equation. Therefore, a business interpreter also must be highly in tune with the cultures of both parties. He must be able to interpret the verbal cues, as well as particular body language or nonverbal cues from both parties in order to provide an accurate interpretation of the words spoken. For example, in Japan, it is considered rude to express a direct negative. So, a Japanese businessman will often use the word tabun, meaning “maybe”, to indicate he is unwilling to consider a specific idea or proposal. However, in American culture, the word maybe indicates there is a possibility. The interpreter must understand these differences in order to accurately convey his clients’ message and intentions.
In many cases, an international business interpreter will need to travel great distances, and for significant lengths of time. Therefore, his or her lifestyle and family must be able to accommodate these needs. While the idea of compensated, worldwide travel may seem glamorous, there is a good chance that the entirety of the trip will be all work, with very little free time for personal travel.
Technology and Media
Today’s interpreters must be well-versed in a wide range of high-tech communications and media devices. This can include using technology for presentations, to facilitate meetings, or to assist the clients in communicating with one another.
Reading and Writing
Technically, interpreters deal with the spoken word, while translators deal with written communication. However, in the world of business interpretation, the lines between interpreter and translator can cross. You may be presented with documents and texts that will need to be translated for either party in a quick, efficient, and accurate manner.
More than anything else, a successful business interpreter has an innate love of language and enjoys working closely with people in the exciting and fast-paced business world.