“NI HAO, wo men de…” In a glass booth, you hear a Chinese businessman making his presentation. Chinese words swirl around in your head and are translated into Korean. You instantly speak out Korean into the speakerphone. The Korean businessmen hear your voice and nods. You are a “conference interpreter,” who enables them to understand each other during the meeting.
Introduction of conference interpreters
Conference Interpreters conduct two types of interpretations: simultaneous interpretation and consecutive interpretation. Interpreting the language at the same time with the speaker is called simultaneous interpretation, and interpreting after each segment is called consecutive interpretation. In contrast to consecutive interpreters working alone, simultaneous interpreters work in pairs, taking turns in every twenty minutes, because it is tenser to listen and speak at the same time. Most large-scale conferences are held with simultaneous interpretations in order to prevent suspended hours caused by consecutive interpretation.
Becoming a conference interpreter
It is essential to study interpretation and translation courses from graduate schools in order to become a professional conference interpreter. About seven universities including Ewha Univ., and Hankuk Univ. of Foreign Studies have masters degree courses for interpretation and translation. Kim says, “Admitting the graduate schools doesn’t mean the agony is over, because you have to pass the graduation test. Only two to three people get masters degree for interpretation from Hankuk Univ. of Foreign Studies each year.” After graduation, conference interpreters can join interpreting agencies or companies. For freelancers, the graduate schools operate as agencies that link projects as well as opportunities.
Merits and hardships
Working as a conference interpreter is like using both sides of a coin. Kim says, “The merit of a conference interpreter is that we are not tied to work everyday. Conference interpreters can have breaks like freelancers as international conferences or meetings are only held in frequently,” Another positive feature of this job is that the topics and fields of each conference are different, so the work gets never boring. The other side of the coin is that job security is never stable for conference interpreters. However, if the conference interpreter tries his or her best every time, reputation as well as client lists will accumulate, leading to longer working life.
Advice to those who dream
Becoming a conference Interpreter might seem very attractive to those who want to work as professionals in a globalized society. To those who dream of being a professional conference interpreter, Kim advises, “It is true that the conference interpreter has to be good at foreign languages, but that’s not all. The most important ability a talented conference interpreter has to have is intellectual curiosity in various fields.” For conference interpreters have to constantly interpret different topics in every conference, they have to study new things. A person who is curious about new field of studies can enjoy their work as they prepare for the conferences.
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The prospects of conference interpreters seem quite bright. As the world heads toward a more internationalized society, interactions between different languages are increasing. Without the power of conference interpreters, understanding between various countries would be impossible during international conferences. If you are dreaming of becoming the flower of international conferences, start working toward your ambitious goals now!