Qualities of a Good Face to Face Interpreter

face to face interpreter

Qualities of a Good Face to Face Interpreter

The most obvious requirement of  a good face to face interpreter is the ability to speak at least two languages, but there is a lot more that goes into being a good face to face interpreter than pure linguistic talent. A number of qualities are required of a truly good face to face interpreter, most importantly:

A Strong Vocabulary

A good face to face interpreter must not merely be able to speak the languages they are translating, nor even just be fluent. A great interpreter should have a particularly strong vocabulary in both languages, even stronger than necessary to qualify as fluent. A good face to face interpreter is required to translate what is usually native speech in real-time and with complete accuracy, so it is important that they have the capability to properly understand every single thing that is being said in one language – even if it is an obscure or specialist subject – and translate it properly into the other.

Cultural Awareness

For an interpreter a perform their job as well as they possibly can, good face to face interpreters must not just provide top-notch language skills but also very strong cultural understanding. This is necessary if they are to understand all of the nuances and implications which go hand-in-hand with language use but are not necessarily subject to any linguistic rules, as well as properly interpret non-verbal communication which can be just as important as spoken words.


Another skill that is required of a face to face interpreter in order to properly handle non-verbal communication is observational ability. Human beings communicate as much through gestures and subtleties of behaviour as through actually speaking, but when there are cultural barriers or when attention is divided between speaker and interpreter then it can be hard to pick up on these in full. A good face to face interpreter should be able to pick up on the non-verbal aspects of the communication they are translating in detail, and ensure that it is properly conveyed in the way they deliver their translation.

Good at Multitasking

Good face to face interpreters have to be strong at multi-tasking, because providing translation in real time is essentially a form of multi-tasking in itself. They are having to listen closely to everything that is being said in one language, making sure they pay enough attention to fully understand its meaning. At exactly the same time, they have to form a translation in their mind that is complete and accurate, juggling the grammatical rules of both languages in their heads and making sure they don’t get the two languages confused.

Cope Well With Pressure

Usually a face to face interpreters is often required to work in stressful situations. This is especially true for those working in settings like law enforcement or medicine, but these are certainly not the only examples. Impassioned conversations or heated negotiations are an occupational hazard for a face to face interpreter, so they must have a strong enough head under pressure to cope well with this stress and – most importantly of all – to remain calm and continue to act as a neutral go-between and facilitator rather than becoming emotionally involved.

Aqua Interpreting Group have high standards when it comes to taking on new good face to face interpreters. We can provide skilled, professional interpreters for more than 250 languages, and you can be sure that all our face to face interpreters and translators will display all of these qualities and provide you with a service that perfectly meets all of your needs.