Working from home as an interpreter: what you should know

Working from home as an interpreter: what you should know

In our connected world where diplomacy, good business and even a relationship can hang on the right translated word the skills of good translators and interpreters are more valuable than ever. Google translate might be able to tell you what the restaurant review said, but you need someone who knows language and the nuance of interpretation and translation to really get the right message across.

Of course, there is a difference between translation and interpretation, but both are jobs that you can do from home.  If you know your adverb from a conjunctive clause, have a preference about the oxford comma, and know the difference between bonjour and guten tag, interpretation from home can be a great career choice.

The difference between translators and interpreters

Many people think translators and interpreters do the same job, and in a way they do. The two jobs are closely related, but it is very rare for someone to do both of these language jobs.

The type of training and experience is different even though both are about knowing your different languages and how to translate it them. The main difference between translators and interpreters is that the translator works with the written word and an interpreter works with the spoken.

The similarities between translators and interpreters are that they all work with a source language and a target language. But where a translator needs to be a good writer, with excellent research skills and a knowledge of the cultures of both languages, but they usually work in one direction, from English to French for example.

An interpreter on the other hand, needs to be able to work on the spot, think on their feet, and translate quickly and usually work from one language to the other interchangeably.

Working from home

It may seem that working from home would be the best choice for a translator, and many translators work from home because you just need the source text to start with. But you can still work as an interpreter from home as well, although the way you work will be quite different.

A translator works with texts and may have time to think and research a topic before diving into the translation. They can also rely on dictionaries and online translation tools if they get stumped by a word or metaphor.

It also has time constraints, but these will be different from the ones you will have as an interpreter.

As an interpreter you will not have the ability to use dictionaries or online tools to search for the right word, because you work with the spoken word. It will require that you have the experience skills to work quickly and accurately.

If you do interpretation work from home, it will usually be over the phone, but can also be via live chat, skype or other platforms. There are quite few websites that offer interpretation jobs, but keep in mind it will largely depend on what languages you can speak and your level of experience.

You will probably need a good phone line, a stable and trustworthy internet connection and the knowhow to use your technology effectively.

Not just from home

If you have gained some experience as an interpreter by translating over the phone, you can also offer your services to people who may need interpretation in your community. Many hospitals, police stations, courts and schools regularly need someone who can interpret quickly and clearly.

You may need to translate what a doctor is saying to a patient, by keeping them calm but also help them to understand what may seem to be very complicated in simpler terms.

This can also be a starting point before you decide to work at home. Some real world experience can help you understand what a client needs to know over the phone more clearly, and translate according to their needs.

How to become a skilled interpreter

If you can speak two languages you already have skills that are suited to translation and interpretation. But not every person who can speak to languages will make a good interpreter.

So if you want to excel in a career of a translator, you need to make sure you have the skills to make you employable, trustworthy and qualified to make the correct decisions in a fast paced conversation.

The first you need to be is completely fluent in both languages you will speak and translate. A degree is not necessarily a requirement when you want to start out as an interpreter, but it will give you an advantage in your field. Even a basic certificate will already help you stand out above other applicants.

A second thing you can do is practice as much as you can, and gain a good set of references. Volunteer at a non-profit you may need your skills. It is a great way to build a resume and some valuable skills in the field.

The more experience you have the easier jobs will be, whether you do them in person or over the phone. You can also check out Real Translator Jobs for getting freelance translator projects.

You can also take a voluntary test where you can prove how well you can translate. Especially government agencies will offer these types of tests so they can have an idea of the interpreters that are available and what languages they can interpret to.

Find your local association or board of interpreters. They can really help you to get started, get the right training and help you to get the certifications or qualifications that will really make you a professional.


Working from home as an interpreter is possible and can be a real career. If you practice your skills, and know what you want to achieve there are several companies (especially ones that specialize in telephone interpreting) that will be a good fit for you.

Hopefully, this piece has given you some of the information you needed to get started in the right direction and make the choice between a career as a translator or an interpreter.  If you still need help, try out Real Translator Jobs where professionals can guide you.

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