How to become a Farsi interpreter

How to Become a Farsi Interpreter

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Many students enter university with interest in the Persian language but do not have an exact career path in mind. If you are one of those students, have you considered becoming a Farsi interpreter? On the other hand, perhaps you are looking to switch careers and want to know how to become a Persian language interpreter.

Whatever your situation, we’ll cover some of the fundamental steps in becoming a Farsi interpreter.

The difference between a Farsi Interpreter and a Farsi translator

On the surface, it seems like interpreters and translators have very similar jobs. After all, both jobs involve translation in some form. However, being a Farsi interpreter requires a very different skill set than being a translator. Translators work with written text while interpreters translate spoken words, acting as intermediaries between people who speak different languages.

Farsi interpreters need to have excellent public speaking and listening skills. They need to listen to and remember what someone says in Farsi and then translate it into another language a few moments later. Translators, on the other hand, don’t have to work as quickly and can take the time to look at reference materials. They don’t need to hone their public speaking skills, but they must have strong reading comprehension and writing skills in both their native and second language.

Why become a Farsi interpreter?

The Persian language is quite popular. In fact, over 100 million people speak Farsi worldwide! The language is spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, and Central Asia. These regions each have unique business sectors or humanitarian needs.

Companies looking to sell products in Iran may need a Farsi interpreter for negotiating distribution contracts. Organizations, such as the United Nations, may need interpreters to assist in food distribution or medical relief.

Steps to become a Farsi interpreter

Follow these steps to help you find a Farsi interpreting job.

1. Learn Persian

The first step is obviously to master the Persian language! If you are already fluent or a native speaker, then go ahead and skip this step. Otherwise, you need to choose a way to learn the language. Read our article on how to learn Farsi to find out some great ways to perfect your Persian.

Once you pick a method, such as a university or immersion program, you will need to continue practicing. Ideally, you should set your goal to reach an Advanced-High per the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Proficiency Guidelines. If you follow the Interagency Language Roundtable guidelines, then you want a 4 or 5. These levels show you truly mastered the language and are close to native proficiency.

2a. Earn a certification

Pimsleur Language Programs
Pimsleur Language Programs

Earning a certification can help build your resume and advance your career. Certifications are generally focused on one specialty, such as medical interpreting. You can also take exams offered by the government to demonstrate your skill and open up new job opportunities.

If you want to become a medical interpreter, you should look into becoming certified by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters. To get certified, you’ll have to take a written exam that assesses your professional knowledge, critical thinking, and cultural responsiveness. To learn more about the process, take a look at CCHI’s pamphlet.

The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters also offers a written exam for Farsi interpreters. They don’t have an oral exam for Farsi yet, so you can’t get fully certified by their organization. Still, passing the written exam will demonstrate your mastery of the Persian language to potential employers.

Legal interpreting exams are available for interpreters in each state court system. Some states haven’t developed exams for every language, so you’ll need to visit your state’s website to verify that they have a Farsi exam. If your state offers this exam, you should strongly consider taking it because it could open up opportunities for you in your state’s courts.

The US Department of State also offers a test for interpreters that can lead to contract work with the government.

2b. Attend a university program

Attending a university program will help you develop the professional skills you’ll need to be an effective Farsi interpreter. Some universities, a few of which are mentioned below, have made it easier than ever to earn a certificate by offering all of their classes online.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst offers an online undergraduate certificate in Professional Translation and Interpreting that takes approximately one year to complete. All of the classes are multilingual, so you’ll work with students who speak a variety of different languages. You’ll take courses like Interpreting in Mental Health and Legal Interpreting and be prepared for a career as either an interpreter or translator. This certificate is great for students who aren’t quite sure if they want to be Farsi interpreters or translators yet.

The University of Minnesota also offers an online interpreting certificate. You can specialize in health interpreting, legal interpreting, or both. You’ll take courses like Introduction to Interpreting, Introduction to Translation, and Health Care Terms and Concepts for Interpreters. You have up to four years to complete the program but can finish in as little as one and a half years. This certificate is another excellent choice for students who want to gain experience in both interpreting and translating.

If you’d instead take classes in person, it’s very likely that your local universities offer certificates or even Master’s degrees in interpreting.  

3. Gain Experience

You most likely cannot get a professional Farsi interpreting job without practical experience. Volunteering is a great way to gain that experience while helping others. Many nonprofit organizations that work with refugees in the US and abroad need Farsi interpreters.

The National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago provides legal counsel to immigrants and refugees and is currently looking for volunteer interpreters who speak any language. Another organization that needs volunteer interpreters is the International Rescue Committee in New York City. You can also find similar opportunities overseas. The Boat Refugee Foundation works with refugees in Greece and needs Farsi interpreters to aid them in their work there.

Two great places to look for more volunteer opportunities are VolunteerMatch.org and Idealist.org.

Example of Farsi interpreter positions
Farsi translators can work side by side with key figures like former Secretary of State John Kerry.

4. Land a bob as a Farsi interpreter

There are many job opportunities open to Farsi interpreters that can turn into fulfilling careers. You could work for organizations like the United Nations, NGOs, or private companies. You can find work in hospitals, courtrooms, and law offices. There are even remote work opportunities available. Companies like Certified Languages International will hire you to provide your interpreting services to hospitals over the phone.

An excellent resource for finding jobs like the ones mentioned above is our Farsi Job Board.

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