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Pathways to interpreting

Professional interpreters work with the spoken word. Not only are they fluent in two or more languages, they also have the ability to listen to information in one language and render this information into another language.

Interpreting modes

The two main modes of interpreting are simultaneous and consecutive.

Simultaneous interpreters often work in an interpreting booth and interpret what is being said to the audience who listens via headphones. The interpreters are generally present in person at the meeting but can also work remotely via video conferencing.

Consecutive interpreters interpret a few sentences (up to 10 minutes) of what is said at a time. They generally take notes, especially when the speaker talks for more than a minute or two. Consecutive interpreting is generally used in community interpreting, for example in hospitals or when working with refugees, but also in more formal situations such as speeches at functions.

While some of the skills required for consecutive and simultaneous interpreting overlap, there are also significant differences.

Interpreting skills

  • Excellent command of your native language
  • Excellent knowledge of one or more foreign languages
  • Excellent subject knowledge and specialist vocabulary
  • General knowledge (for high-level settings)
  • Good public speaking skills (especially for consecutive interpreting)
  • The ability to listen, process information and speak at the same time
  • The ability to concentrate at a very high level
  • Familiarity with interpreting booth technology
  • Note-taking system for consecutive interpreting
  • Ability to summarise information
  • Excellent short-term memory
  • Confidence to speak up and ask speakers to slow down or repeat information (in community interpreting or court settings)
  • Ability to work in a team with other interpreters

Interpreter training

Interpreters enter the profession after completing an interpreting programme at a university. In addition to learning interpreting and note-taking techniques, it is important to receive feedback on one’s own interpreting output. Therefore, it is impossible to become an interpreter without professional training.

Interpreting takes a lot of practice — both to acquire the skills and to maintain them.

NZSTI offers webinars, seminars and workshops for interpreters as part of their professional development programme. A list of interpreting courses offered in New Zealand can be found here.

Interpreting in New Zealand

The demand for interpreting in New Zealand depends a lot on the language. Minority languages, e.g. Pasifika languages or languages that refugees speak, form a large part of the community interpreting work. There is also a high demand for languages with large numbers of speakers in New Zealand, such as Chinese, and for languages that tourists and immigrants speak. When international delegations are visiting New Zealand, interpreters are also often needed.

See the job opportunities for interpreters and more on the page we have prepared together with


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