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One Size Does Not Fit All

Some of the most common questions I receive are about interpreter training options. Many colleagues or prospective interpreters ask me what is ✨ the one training ✨ I can recommend that will teach them everything they need to know to pass a particular certification test or to succeed in this career field.

Unfortunately, from my experience, I must say the answer is none, and I will explain why.

Let's say you want to become a certified medical interpreter and let's also assume that money, time, and access are not a problem.

Now, imagine you attend a four-year university and get a bachelor's degree in translation and interpretation.

Then you get a job offer to work as a staff interpreter at a large hospital, and one of the requirements is for you to be a certified medical interpreter.

To become a certified medical or healthcare interpreter, you'd probably still need to take additional classes or courses specifically designed for interpreters in the medical field unless your degree included enough medical interpreter training credits to meet the certifications' prerequisites.

Let's think of another example. Let's say you complete a 60-hr medical interpreter training. You'd be not only meeting but exceeding the current prerequisite of 40 hours of training for the certification programs available.

But, your course had a lot of theory and not enough practice and you feel that you still need to work on your note-taking skills to reach a higher level of accuracy. You may need to take a course or workshop specifically on note-taking to improve that.

Sometimes it's not even strictly necessary to take a class to improve certain things because, from my experience, there is a lot we can accomplish and learn through self-study.

But self-study is also an investment because you'd have to invest time and possibly invest in resources like books, practice material, dictionaries, and tools to study on your own.

Let's say you start working with a client where they do a lot of group classes for diabetic patients, or for new parents, or something like that, and they need you to interpret simultaneously for the LEP patients in the class using simultaneous interpretation equipment.

If your simultaneous interpretation skills are a bit rusty, you may need to take a class or work on your own to improve that skill in particular.

And I could go on and on, giving you many more examples of situations that can explain why there isn't a single course that can teach you everything you need.

I can even tell you that I recently took the oral exam for the federal court interpreter certification and I spent thousands - yes, thousands of dollars on courses, books, and tools, not to mention the amount of time I dedicated to studying for this test in over two years.

And guess what? I still encountered things on the test that I had never heard before and didn't know how to interpret them.

So, what does that mean? Should I just give up? No! On the contrary, it means we should approach this journey as a marathon, not a sprint.

Like runners train for a marathon, the process is slow and steady and doesn't happen overnight. Much like marathon runners train on different terrains, under different weather conditions, and using different gear to find the best fit for them, we, as interpreters, should gradually develop our skills and, ideally, learn from different trainers and train in different ways using various tools and methods until we find what works best for us.

Well, actually, that is incorrect because it's not "until we find what works best for us." In my experience, this is a neverending process because this career field requires constant learning.

So, even though there isn't one single course or class or even full degree that can teach you everything you need to know, there is something to learn from each and every resource available out there, and also, there's a lot you can accomplish by studying on your own.

Start with what you can, based on your immediate goals, what's available to you, and your budget, and slowly build up from there.

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