Human Services Guide

Education Requirements to Become an Interpreter

The Interpreter performs a vital function in Human Services agencies by allowing there to be discussions between groups who have different first languages. In Human Services there are often situations where there is a language barrier which can be extremely significant when there are complicated rules and laws that need to be discussed and understood in full. The Interpreter bridges this gap by having fluency in multiple languages and facilitating all manner of meetings and mediations between individuals and groups.

While knowing multiple languages is, of course, of primary concern for the Interpreter, other skills that are extremely important are: rapport, empathy, ability to understand and convey complex directions and an understanding of socio-economic realities of various groups in ones area. The best way to develop your full suite of skills is to have an educational background that not only includes the all-important languages you will be translating, but also a Social Work, Sociology or Human Services background in order to understand the needs of your organization along with the realities of populations you will be working with. It is wise if you are an interpreter to master at least two languages in addition to English and you will probably want to choose Spanish as one of them. Some other useful languages include:

  • Russian
  • Chinese
  • Vietnamese
  • French (some of West Africa and the Caribbean speaks French)
  • Somali
  • Serbian
  • Bosnian
  • Hmong
  • Arabic

Different areas will have need of various languages depending on the communities in the region and what groups are sent to those areas by the Immigration authorities. In addition to languages, it is recommended you consider a minor in one of: Social Work, Sociology, Psychology, Counseling or Human Services in order to help you perform at a higher level within the agency you work for. Having a Bachelor’s degree is usually sufficient for most positions, what is more important is the number of languages in which you have attained fluency.