Main Topic: Human Geography
Secondary Topic: Environment and Society
Overview: Interpreters convert information from one spoken language into another—or, in the case of sign language interpreters, between spoken language and sign language. The goal of an interpreter is to have people hear the interpretation as if it were the original language. Interpreters usually must be fluent speakers or signers of both languages because they communicate back and forth among people who do not share a common language. There are three common modes of interpreting: simultaneous, consecutive, and sight translation: Simultaneous interpreters convey a spoken or signed message into another language at the same time someone is speaking or signing. Consecutive interpreters convey the speaker’s or signer’s message in another language after they have stopped to allow for the interpretation. Sight translation interpreters provide translation of a written document directly into a spoken language, for immediate understanding, but not for the purposes of producing a written translated document. Interpretation services are needed in virtually all subject areas. The following are examples of types of interpreters: Community interpreters work in community-based environments, providing vital language interpretation one-on-one or in group settings, such as parent–teacher conferences, community events, business and public meetings, social and government agencies, new-home purchases, and many other work and community settings. Conference interpreters work at conferences that have non-English-speaking attendees. The work is often in the field of international business or diplomacy. Health or medical interpreters typically work in healthcare settings and help patients communicate with doctors, nurses, technicians, and other medical staff. Liaison or escort interpreters accompany either U.S. visitors abroad or foreign visitors in the United States who have limited English proficiency. Legal or judicial interpreters typically work in courts and other legal settings. At hearings, arraignments, depositions, and trials, they help people who have limited English proficiency. Sign language interpreters facilitate communication between people who are deaf or hard of hearing and people who can hear. Trilingual interpreters facilitate communication among an English speaker, a speaker of another language, and an ASL user.
Geography skills and awareness are essential for interpreters. They obviously work daily with multiple languages and cultures, and geography plays a large part in the background and contemporary usages of language and for the people with whom interpreters work. Languages often have dialects that can vary with location as well (Swiss German is somewhat different than German, for example).
Geographers at work: Linguistic geographer, cultural geographer, human geographers
Recommended College Courses: Linguistic or language geography, cultural geography, human geography
Skills: Understanding and sensitivity to geographical variations in language and culture.
Occupation Group: Media and Communication
Learn more about Interpreters from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/interpreters-and-translators.htm#tab-2
Written by Christopher Anderson