36 Interview Questions for an Interpreter (With Sample Answers)
As businesses start to work in more places around the world, they often need people who can translate between languages. A person or business can hire an interpreter when they need to talk to someone who speaks a language they don’t know. If you are fluent in more than one language and want to help people talk to each other, you might like being an interpreter. In this article, we look at some of the most common questions an interviewer might ask a person who wants to be an interpreter and give examples of answers with explanations. Interview Questions for an Interpreter
General interview questions for interpreters
Interviewers ask you a variety of questions to find out about your skills and see if you might be a good fit for their company. Here are some possible questions:
- How do you think you can translate well?
- Do you like to get to know the people you translate for on a personal level, or do you prefer to keep things more formal?
- Why do you want to work at our business?
- Who do you think would be your ideal client?
- How well do you speak other languages? What is your first language?
- How do you deal with pressure and hard situations?
- How do you keep track of your work and decide what to do first?
- What do you think is the most important part of good communication?
- What gets you going?
- What do you do really well?
Experience and background questions
Interviewers may also ask about your past jobs and if you have the right skills to be an interpreter. Some of the questions they could ask are:
- How much experience do you have translating for other people?
- Do you have any training or certification to interpret or translate?
- Do you have any business or interpreting experience in a certain style or field?
- Why did you want to become a translator?
- What have you learned more about to make you a better interpreter?
- Have you ever given a presentation to a large group of people?
- Have you ever translated and checked over written work?
- What do you know about teaching other interpreters?
- Can you tell me about a mistake you made while translating and how you fixed it?
- What did you enjoy most about your most recent position?
In some cases, interviewers might ask you detailed questions about your qualifications and how you like to translate. Some of these questions could be:
- How would you explain a gesture or idiom to someone who doesn’t speak the same language or come from the same culture?
- Can you translate when people speak quickly and have different accents?
- Can you tell me what you might do if you didn’t understand something someone said while you were translating for them?
- Would you feel comfortable translating swear words or topics of conversation that make you uncomfortable?
- How would you change things for people with different levels of education, like students in different grades?
- How would you tell someone who has never used an interpreter before what you do?
- How do you get ready for a time to translate?
- Do you prefer a word-for-word translation or a summary of what your client said?
- Can you tell me what these words mean?
- Do you think it’s important for a translator to be fair? What’s the deal?
Sample questions and answers for an interview
You might want to think about why some of these questions are asked and how you can answer them to show why you’re the best candidate. Read about why interviewers often ask some of these questions and see some sample answers to help you come up with your own.
How would you say this in another language?
An interviewer might see how well you understand and speak the language they want you to know. To the best of your ability, give the translation. If you think a phrase could have more than one meaning, you can say why you chose the one you did.
Example: “This phrase means I’m glad to meet you. Depending on the situation, it can be a bit more formal, but your company works mostly in social settings, so I thought a more casual and friendly translation would be better.”
Do you think you are unbiased as a translator?
Interpreters may work with a wide range of clients whose thoughts and beliefs may be different from their own. No matter what, an interpreter usually does their best to translate what their client says. They often try to make it easier for two or more people to talk to each other without changing what anyone says. You can use this answer to say if you think being fair is important or not.
Example: “When I translate for someone, I think of myself as fair. I think it’s my job to say their message as well as I can, and it wouldn’t fit with my professional or personal values to change what they say on purpose. People hire me to talk on their behalf, and they trust me to do that. I value that, and I believe my impartiality is important to maintaining my client’s trust.”
Can you tell me about the kinds of people you have usually interpreted for?
This question gives the interviewer a chance to find out more about you and what you’ve done. For instance, a company might want an interpreter who has translated professional meetings before, while a law office might need a translator who has translated legal terms before. If you don’t want your clients’ names to be known, you can give information that doesn’t reveal who they are.
Example: “I did translation work for a few clients in the financial field. I’ve talked to banks and other places that handle money for them. Most of my clients have been individuals, but a few have been small business owners who needed help setting up retirement accounts or automatic bank transfers for their employees.”
Do you know how to speak a number of different dialects and accents?
Interpreters may work with people who speak in regional dialects, so an interviewer may ask this question to see if you can translate for the people they want to hire you for. This can be very important if the company often works with people from a certain area. You can use this answer to talk about what you know about certain accents or how you’ve learned to speak with different accents in the past.
Example: “I know a few regional German dialects that are considered Hochdeutsch, but I don’t know as much about other dialects. In the past, I’ve prepared for new clients with certain accents or dialects by finding videos made by native speakers and learning the words they use compared to standard German.”
Do you know how to translate legal, medical, or educational documents?
If you are going to be interpreting for a specialized field, the interviewer may ask you this question. In these fields, you often need to know words and phrases that aren’t as common as the phrases you use in business and personal conversations. If you have experience, tell the interviewer about it. If you don’t, you might want to tell them if you’re working toward a certification in the style of translation they need.
Example: “Yes, I have helped people in an emergency room by speaking their language. I told the doctors what the symptoms were and told my client what the doctor said, so they could get the best care possible. I’ve also done translation work for patients at a private clinic that specialized in gastroenterology.”
How have you kept learning about being an interpreter?
Languages change and develop all the time, so interpreters often spend some time keeping up with the latest trends in the languages they translate. Interviewers may want to know if your vocabulary is current and ensure that you can continue providing accurate translations. Use this answer to talk about how you keep learning more about the languages you already know.
Example: “I read the Korean news to find out what’s going on in the country. I’ve also made friends with a few people who speak English as their first language, and we talk a lot. I also look at Korean social media to learn new slang and phrases that I don’t already know.”