Not signed up?


Interpreter: Job description

Interpreters convert spoken or sign language statements from one language to another. Interpreting involves listening to, understanding and memorising content in the original 'source' language, then reproducing statements, questions and speeches in a different 'target' language. This is often done in only one direction, normally into the interpreter's native language, but may be on a two-way basis.

Interpreters work in the following settings:

  • business functions such as meetings, conferences, exhibitions and product launches;
  • criminal justice proceedings, known as public service interpreting (PSI), including police and probation service interviews, court hearings, solicitor interviews, arbitration hearings and immigration tribunals;
  • community-based events and assignments within the education, health and social services sectors.

Typical work activities

Interpreting can be carried out in person, by telephone or via video conferencing and internet-based technologies.

There are several types of interpreting.

  • Simultaneous interpretation (SI): working in a team at a conference or large meeting, the interpreter sits in a soundproof booth (there are separate booths for each conference language) and immediately converts what is being said, so listeners hear the interpretation through an earpiece while the speaker is still speaking. A variation of this is whispering, or chuchotage, where the interpreter sits near one person or a small group and whispers the translation as the speaker carries on. Sign language interpreting is also usually simultaneous. Interpreters typically take turns of about 30 minutes as it demands such high levels of concentration.
  • Consecutive interpretation (CI): more common in smaller meetings and discussions, the speaker will pause after each sentence or point and wait while the interpreter translates what is being said into the appropriate language.
  • Liaison interpretation: also known as ad hoc and relay, this is a type of two-way interpreting, where the interpreter translates every few sentences while the speaker pauses. This is common in telephone interpreting as well as in legal and health situations. The interpreter supports people who are not fluent in the language to ensure their understanding.
  • Sign language interpretation: interpreters convert spoken statements into sign language and vice versa. Interpreting from one sign language to another is another option.

The following work activities are likely in any interpreting setting:

  • assimilating speakers' words quickly, including jargon and acronyms;
  • building up specialist vocabulary banks;
  • writing notes to aid memory;
  • using microphones and headsets;
  • preparing paperwork - considering agendas before meetings, or lectures and speeches when received in advance;
  • using the internet to conduct research;
  • organising workload and liaising with internal departments, agencies and employers;
  • working to a professional code of ethics covering confidentiality and impartiality.

There are 38 jobs available in information, research and analysis

View jobs >

Have you considered these other jobs?

Written by AGCAS editors
September 2015

Search graduate jobs


Spotlight on...

  • Management Training Scheme
    This role will give you the opportunity to develop skills in Sales, Marketing, Finance, Customer Service, People & Logistics Management.

Sponsored links


This website is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with CSS enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets if you are able to do so.