Volunteer Interpreting: 3 Best Ways to Get Started

  • Time to read: 7 min.

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For language professionals, volunteer interpreting is a great way to use your skills and knowledge to serve the community. It can be incredibly rewarding, both professionally and personally. Not only does it give you an opportunity to hone your interpretation skills in a real-world setting, but it also gives you the chance to make a difference in people’s lives.

Whether you are interested in medical interpreting, court interpreting or any other type of interpretation service, volunteering as an interpreter can provide invaluable experience while having an impact on those who need help communicating effectively. In this article we will discuss seven ways that language professionals can get started with volunteer interpreting.

Understand the Different Types of Volunteer Interpreting

As a language professional, volunteering as an interpreter is a great way to give back to your community and extend a helping hand to those in need. However, before you get started, it’s important to understand the different types of volunteer interpreting available. This will help you identify the types of interpreting that best align with your experience and skills.

Community Interpreting

Community interpreting refers to interpreting services that are provided to individuals who are non-English speakers. This type of interpreting can be found in a variety of settings such as hospitals, legal systems, and social services. The role of a community interpreter is to provide communication support to non-English speakers in order to help them understand and be understood by English speakers. 

For example, a community interpreter may be asked to interpret for a non-English speaking patient during a medical appointment. The interpreter helps the patient understand the diagnosis, treatment options, and what to expect moving forward. 

Conference Interpreting

Conference interpreting refers to interpreting services that are provided during conferences, meetings, and other business events. This type of interpreting requires a high level of expertise and skill, and typically involves interpreting from one language to another in real-time. Conference interpreters must be able to interpret complex vocabulary and technical terminology accurately and quickly.

For example, a conference interpreter may be asked to interpret during a United Nations meeting where participants are speaking multiple languages. The interpreter must be able to accurately and quickly interpret the spoken words in several languages in order to facilitate communication between participants.

Legal Interpreting

Legal interpreting refers generally to interpreting services that are provided in legal settings such as courthouses, law offices, and police stations. This type of legal interpreting requires interpreters who have a strong understanding of legal terminology and practices.

For example, a legal interpreter or translator may be asked to interpret during a court hearing where a non-English speaking defendant is on trial. The interpreter must be able to accurately interpret the spoken words and legal terminology used during the trial in order to ensure that the defendant understands the proceedings.

Here’s how to get started as a federal court interpreter.

Research Organizations in Need of Volunteers

There are plenty of organizations out there that need your help. Whether you’re looking to improve your skills or give back to your community, volunteering as an interpreter is a great way to do it.

But before you get started, you’ll need to do a little bit of research. After all, not all organizations are created equal. Some may have strict requirements for volunteers, while others may only need help occasionally. Here’s what you need to know about finding the right organization for you.

Research Online

The internet is a treasure trove of information. Start by doing a simple search for “volunteer interpreter organizations” or “language volunteer opportunities”. You’ll likely be presented with a list of websites and organizations that are looking for help.

Take a look at the requirements and qualifications for each organization. Some may require certain types of language proficiency or certifications. Make a list of the ones that seem like a good fit and move on to the next step.

Ask Around

Next, ask other language professionals about their experiences with volunteering. They may have firsthand knowledge of organizations that are in need of help. You can also reach out to professors or instructors who teach language courses in your local community.

Another option is to use the platform of social media to reach out to others who have volunteered in the past. There are often groups on Facebook dedicated to language professionals, and you can ask for recommendations there.

Contact Organizations Directly

Finally, consider reaching out to organizations directly. This may be the best approach if you have specific skills or experience that you think can be beneficial. Check out the websites of organizations you’re interested in and search for their volunteer opportunities section. You may also find contact information for someone in charge of volunteers.

When reaching out, give a brief overview of your language proficiency and any relevant experience you have. Ask if they are currently in need of volunteers and what the application process is like.

Network with Other Language Professionals

When it comes to volunteering as an interpreter, one of the best things you can do is network with other language professionals. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in the industry for a while, connecting with others in your field can help you jumpstart your volunteer work and take your career to new heights.

Why Networking Matters

There are a few key reasons why networking with other language professionals is so important. First, it can help you learn more about the industry and what volunteer opportunities are available. You may not know about every volunteer organization out there, but by connecting with others in your field, you can get the inside scoop on what’s happening and who’s looking for interpreters.

In addition, networking can help you build important relationships that can further your career. If you’re just starting out in the industry, finding a mentor or connecting with more experienced interpreters and translators can help you hone your skills and grow your knowledge. Even if you’ve been in the industry for a while, staying connected to other professionals can help you stay up to date on the latest trends, technologies and best practices

How to Network with Other Language Professionals

So how do you get started with networking? Here are a few tips:

Attend Industry Events: Look for conferences, seminars and other events that focus on language interpretation. These events are great opportunities to meet other language professionals and learn about the industry.

Join Professional Organizations: There are several professional organizations out there for interpreters. Joining one of these groups can help you connect with others in your field and stay up to date on the latest industry news.

Volunteer for Community Events: Many communities hold events where translators and interpreters are needed. Volunteering for these events not only gives you a chance to give back, but also puts you in contact with other language professionals who share your interests.

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking to take your career to the next level, networking with other language professionals can make a big difference. By connecting with others in your field, you can learn more about the industry, build important relationships, and find new opportunities to volunteer your services. So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there – you never know who you might meet.

Utilize Social Media

If you’re a language professional looking to give back and contribute to your community, volunteering as an interpreter or translator can be a meaningful way to put your skills to use. While you can certainly reach out to organizations directly, social media can be a powerful tool for finding potential opportunities.

Using Facebook Groups

Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms, and it’s a great place to start your search. Look for local groups related to your industry or language skills. For example, if you’re a Spanish interpreter, search for groups focused on Spanish-speaking communities in your area.

Once you’ve found relevant groups, take some time to read through their posts. You may find that organizations are posting requests for interpreters or that individuals are seeking language assistance for a specific event or appointment. Be sure to introduce yourself and let the group know that you’re available to help.

Using LinkedIn

LinkedIn is another useful tool for finding volunteer interpreting opportunities. Start by searching for organizations that align with your values or interests and connect with them. Make sure your profile clearly communicates your language skills and experience as an interpreter.

You can also use LinkedIn to reach out directly to individuals who may need access to your services. For example, if you notice that someone is posting about a medical appointment or legal matter, offer to assist as an interpreter.

Connecting with Volunteer Networks on Twitter

Twitter can be a great way to connect with local volunteer networks and organizations. Use hashtags like #volunteer, #interpreting, or #communityservice to find organizations and individuals who are looking for language assistance.

You can also use Twitter to follow local news outlets or community organizations that may post volunteer opportunities. Reach out and offer your services if you see an opportunity that aligns with your skills.

FAQ – Get Started With Volunteer Interpreting

Do volunteer interpreters get paid?

Most volunteer interpreters do not receive payment for their services. However, some organizations may offer reimbursement for certain expenses or provide other forms of compensation.

What certifications do I need to volunteer as an interpreter?

The certification requirements for interpreters vary depending on the organization and the type of interpreting needed. It’s important to do your research and contact organizations directly if you have questions about specific requirements.

Are there age for volunteer interpreters?

Many organizations do not have specific age requirements for interpreters. However, it’s important to research each organization and make sure you meet their requirements so that you can successfully provide language services to children and adults.