The Challenges & Difficulties Interpreters Face - Speak Your Language | Australia

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The Challenges & Difficulties Interpreters Face

Posted on: May 22, 2023 by admin

Some people assume that interpreting is just a word-for-word translation of a person’s speech. However, the reality is that interpreting is a complex and dynamic process that requires a high level of expertise, training and experience. It isn’t enough for an interpreter to just be fluent in both languages, they must also have a wide range of skills in order to provide high-quality interpreting service. Underqualified and inexperienced interpreters can lead to serious misunderstandings between speakers. A high-quality interpreter will have a range of tools and techniques that they can use to overcome interpreting challenges and difficulties.

Interpreter Challenges

Even if an interpreter has a solid grasp of the grammar and vocabulary of both languages, they may still face significant challenges if they:

  • Don’t have a deep understanding of the cultural context of both speakers.
  • Don’t understand how tone is used to convey meaning in both languages
  • Haven’t done enough preparation to acquaint themselves with subject-specific jargon
  • Aren’t unable to hear the speaker properly


Lack of Cultural Awareness

Anyone who has communicated with somebody from a different culture will understand that even though a common language is shared, misunderstandings can occur because of cultural differences. In different social and cultural contexts, words can take on new meanings and certain regional slang, idioms, jokes and phrases can be meaningless when directly translated. For example, can you imagine if somebody directly translated the phrase ‘take a hike’ into another language with no explanation? A good interpreter will have a deep understanding of both speakers’ cultures in order to accurately convey what each speaker is saying. An underqualified or inexperienced interpreter may struggle to convey the meaning behind phrases that don’t have a literal meaning.

Difficulty Hearing Speakers

This may sound obvious but difficulty hearing the speaker is a very common issue in interpreting. This issue can be caused by poorly set up audio equipment (particularly in remote settings) or the speaker mumbling. An experienced interpreter will ensure that all the audio equipment is working properly and will know when to instruct the speakers to encourage them to alter their speech so they can be understood. An underqualified interpreter may not know how to respond to this challenge and may simply omit words that they couldn’t hear properly, which may lead to an inaccurate delivery.


Interpreting Technical Subjects

Interpreting often takes place in contexts with subject-specific jargon that can be found in legal, medical, business and conference settings. An interpreter must ensure that they have acquainted themselves with jargon that may arise. For example, few people would be able to translate medical-specific terminology such as ‘myocardial infarction’ without any preparation.


In certain scenarios, it is possible to choose an interpreter who is experienced in a specific field (certain interpreters are familiar with medical jargon in multiple languages). However, if the subject matter is very specific, the interpreter may need to be briefed on the topic beforehand so they can prepare. An underqualified interpreter will translate a conversation that is confusing and unclear.


Difficulty Interpreting Tones

Imagine somebody saying ‘oh, that’s just great!’ in a positive genuine tone and now in a sarcastic tone. What was an expression of approval in one tone, can suddenly become a way of expressing extreme discontent simply by taking on a different tone. This shows the importance of an interpreter’s ability to understand the speaker’s tone. As meaning isn’t just conveyed by words spoken but also by the tone it is delivered. Failing to properly understand sarcasm and humour can lead to serious misinterpretations, which many inexperienced interpreters fall for.


How Can You Avoid These Interpretation Challenges?

The key for interpreters to overcome these challenges is simply by gaining experience. As translators gain more experience, they will develop a deep understanding of cultural contexts and gain the ability to interpret the tone of voice accurately. When it comes to interpreting, there is no substitute for experience and hiring an unqualified interpreter will likely lead to confusion between all parties.


Interpreting is an incredibly challenging process that requires extensive training and experience. It’s not enough to simply be fluent in both languages. For high-quality interpreting services, you need somebody who is trained in overcoming common interpreting challenges. If you’re looking for skilled and experienced interpreters with the ability to deliver high-quality interpretations, contact the experts at Speak Your Language today.