conference interpreter

Multilingual Interpreting

Article in partnership with Day Interpreting. Day Interpreting is a 24/7, 365 days per year open service provider with 300 language pairs available upon request.

Where do you start your search for language interpretation in multiple languages? At first, the most common questions you will see in search that are related to multilingual interpreting include:

  • Can you be an interpreter for multiple languages?
  • What are the major types of interpreting?

Then, the most common questions about language interpreting are linked to earning potential:

  • Multilingual interpreting salary
  • Multilingual interpreting jobs.

​Multilingual Interpreters

Can interpreters work with multiple languages?

It is common practice for language interpreters to work in two languages, one being the source language and the other being the target language, although many professional interpreters can speak and are fluent in more than two languages. What really sets a professional interpreter apart is the area of specialisation such as medical, science, pharmaceutical, legal and so on. The key factor that professional interpreters must demonstrate is fluency at mother tongue level, which also includes specific terminology, context and cultural references. Meaning is the main currency in language interpretation: a literal translation from one language to another will not guarantee that an audience understands what is being said.

In 1984, Anthony Burgess said in ‘Translation: The Journal of Literal Translation’, “Translation is not a matter of words only; it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.”

Conference interpreters on average can speak between two and four languages, although it is more common for translators, who specialise in written translations, to have learned more than two languages.

What Are the Main Types of Interpreting?

Whether it’s simultaneous interpretation or consecutive interpretation, the first being in real time, the second alloing the speaker to finish a sentence and then translating it into another language, an essential skill of a professional interpreter is the unique combination of speed and accuracy. If you consider how rushed jobs tend to contain errors in contrast with projects where you give your undivided attention, taking your time on each detail, it is a particularly impressive ability that interpreters have to convey information in another language with the lowest margin of error. You could say that professional interpreters are like Formula One drivers, navigating their circuit with precision and at high speed. No wonder these professionals are sought after and can earn attractive salaries.

​Language Interpreters’ Salary

It’s interesting to see that according to the US website, the average salary for professional interpreters is quoted as being an impressive $193,000 per year, with peaks of $213,000 per annum.

However, there is a lot of disparity when it comes to reports about language interpreters’ salaries. It does make you wonder how realistic some salary expectations are, if you also compound some suspiciously-looking inflated salary figures to attract the best in the business. However, only because one search result appears at the top it does not mean that it represents a realistic picture of the industry. In the example quoted earlier of $193k per year, it is likely to be a paid search result instead of an organic one. Interpreteters with higher educationd and skills tend to attract the highest salaries, but a realistic salary is much lower than $100,000. For example, the website ZipRecruiter reports much lower salaries for interpreters, with top earning potential of $70k per year and an average annual salary of $60k. This is more in line with what conference interpreters earn in the European Union organisations ranging from €45,000 to €50,000 per year (in US dollars this would be between $50,000 and $55,000).