Is 40 hours Enough?

So, you just successfully completed 40 hours of medical interpreter training. Congratulations! You should be proud of the investment you have made in your education and personal growth. But, now what?

It’s time to develop and apply the skills that were introduced during the foundational training you completed. Now that you are a qualified interpreter, you may be eligible to apply for interpreting jobs in certain states. Other states may have additional requirements like state or national certification.

However, just because you are “qualified” doesn’t always mean that you are prepared for all interpreting assignments and scenarios. So is 40 hours of training enough? The answer will differ for each of us.

Does Qualified = Prepared?

Many of us have spent a lifetime speaking and learning our languages of service. We may have additional interpreter training outside of the 40 hours, or even medical degrees. The combination of training and experience is often seen as an indication of the skill level of an interpreter. It’s important to remember that our perceptions of our own skills aren’t always accurate, and the only way to ensure that we are doing the best that we can is to track our continuous improvement in measurable ways.

National certification, even if not required by your state or employer, is the most official way to certify and verify your knowledge about interpreting and your ability to interpret. But you’re not quite done once you’ve had your skills tested. Continuing education is required to maintain your certification. But the question remains, is that enough?

Three ways to practice your interpreting skills

Many find that interpreting is a job that has you constantly self-assessing your own performance. Here are a few ways you can practice and improve your interpreter skills.

1. Try to make interpreting a part of your daily life and thought processes to help improve your ability to self-assess your performance. Listen to conversations and analyze their linguistic elements, highlighting which parts would be difficult to interpret.

2. Keep a journal of these experiences so that you can use valid sources to find the best interpretation for the difficult words or phrases.

3. Focus on finding reliable sources to check the accuracy of your interpretation. Always find multiple sources to confirm the meaning of a term. A reliable dictionary can be great, but also try typing the word or phrase into Google and see how people are using this expression or vocabulary term on the internet. You can also try talking to someone in real life (in both languages) about the topic or word and assess how everyday people talk about this subject in real life.

Though 40 hours meets the qualification requirement in many states, it’s important to remember that part of being an interpreter is a commitment to a lifetime of learning and skill development.

EU interpreter, Dick Fleming, has this to say on the topic:

“…interpreter training courses never seem to be quite long enough. There are all these skills that need to be acquired, and we mustn’t forget that it’s not just a question of learning about them, it’s actually a question of really digesting them and it’s that practice that takes such a long time. I would say there is no need to worry about it, just go for it.”

So while 40 hours may meet the qualification standards, your lived experience, continuing education and willingness to learn is what will make you a truly exceptional interpreter.

For more information on this medical interpreting, visit CCHCP’s Resources page

Tamas Farkas
Language Access Program Director
The Cross Cultural Health Care Program

Back to All Blog Posts