Interpreter Kaiwhakawhiti Reo ā-Waha

Interpreters convert what people say from one language into another.

Interpreters may do some or all of the following:

  • listen to speakers over the telephone or face to face, and repeat what is said in the required language/sign language
  • interpret simultaneously (while the person is speaking) or consecutively (after the person has spoken)
  • travel with, and interpret for tourism or business groups
  • consult dictionaries and other reference materials to find the accurate meaning of words and terms
  • research specialist areas or subjects to prepare for different types of interpreting jobs.

Physical Requirements

Interpreters need to have good hearing (with or without hearing aids). They also need stamina, as they often have to work long and irregular hours.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for interpreters includes:

  • work with people from different cultures, or new migrants
  • work in professional sectors such as law enforcement, scientific, legal, technical or medical environments
  • living and working overseas – for example, going on a student exchange programme
  • language study.

Personal Qualities

Interpreters need to be able to:

  • concentrate for long periods
  • relate to people from a wide range of cultures and make their clients feel comfortable
  • be good listeners
  • react quickly and work well under pressure
  • cope with a wide variety of subjects and situations
  • keep information private
  • analyse information quickly.

Interpreters also need to have a good memory and good comprehension skills.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for interpreters includes:

  • work with people from different cultures, or new migrants
  • work in professional sectors such as law enforcement, scientific, legal, technical or medical environments
  • living and working overseas – for example, going on a student exchange programme
  • language study.

Subject Recommendations

Useful secondary school subjects include English, languages, history and geography.

Interpreters may gain experience working for a government department or commercial service before starting their own business.

With further training, interpreters can move into translation work (converting written material from one language to another).

Interpreters may choose to specialise in:

  • court interpreting
  • sign language interpreting
  • particular languages
  • subjects such as medical or legal areas.
Interpreter