The Pathway To Interpreting (Part 1)

Level 3 Community Interpreting, Level 6 DPSI – you may have heard these terms before in relation to the minimum requirements for interpreters, but what does it all actually mean? We understand that educational jargon maybe unfamiliar to many, so we’ve broken it down into some basic information and guidance.

What is community interpreting and how does it differ from public service interpreting?

Community interpreting refers to interpreting within the community, as opposed to within public services. Community interpreting includes NHS, mental health, social services, education, local governments (councils) etc. In contrast, public services refers to the police, court, prisons, Home Office etc.

To work as an interpreter within the community, you need a Level 3 Certificate in Community Interpreting, whereas to work within the public service sectors, you need a Level 6 DPSI or Level 6 DCI.

Where do you start if you want to be an interpreter?

Although there is no set ‘interpreter development pathway’ as such, the natural progression tends to be that an interpreter would start by interpreting in the community and after 6-18 months of experience, they would move on to applying for a Level 6 Diploma, as this is necessary for work within public services.

You can choose to go straight to the Level 6; however, we always recommend starting with the Level 3 as it enables you to really grow your knowledge and your confidence before attempting to work in the highly pressurised environments of public services.

What does the Level 3 Certificate in Community Interpreting look like?

The Level 3 is an exam-based qualification. The exam is based on a role play, commonly within a medical or mental health setting.

The easiest way to describe it is if you imagine that you are attending an appointment at your local GP. You would have an English speaker, who would be the doctor, and a non-English speaker, who would be the patient. Your role as the interpreter is to help them understand each other through consecutive interpreting.

Consecutive interpreting is a method of interpreting where one speaker speaks, then pauses to allow the interpreter to interpret the speech. Then, the second speaker speaks and pauses to enable the interpreter to interpret the speech back to the first speaker.

During the exam, you will also be asked to perform a sight translation. Going back to our scenario above, imagine that a doctor passes you a leaflet written in English and asks you to explain to the non-English speaker what the piece of paper says. During the exam, you are given a few minutes to read through the document, look up in a dictionary any words you might be unfamiliar with, and then you deliver the speech. In other words this is a written-to-oral rendition, which means that you are not required to do any written translation.

Is the Level 3 Certificate in Community Interpreting difficult?

Yes and no. What do we mean? Well, you do have to speak both languages fluently and you do have to understand the context of what is being said. Having said that, the exam isn’t there to trick you – the terminology used is a true reflection of what you can commonly expect at these types of appointments. Therefore, you don’t have to worry that you would need three years’ worth of medical training to be a community interpreter – not at all. Equally, if you do come across the word that you are not familiar with, you are always permitted to ask for clarification, as you would do in a normal interpreting assignment.

Having said all that, it is absolutely essential that on top of being bilingual, you are also aware of the skills, techniques, ethical considerations, code of conduct, preparation techniques, ways of overcoming obstacles and so on and so forth, which all form part of the theoretical training for community interpreting.

You may be the best linguist out there, but if you are interpreting in the wrong person, if there are omissions and additions, if you intervene in an inappropriate way, etc.,  you will not be successful in the exam. So, although the exam may not be difficult as such, it should also not be underestimated.

How can I prepare for the Level 3 Certificate in Community Interpreting?

With our tutor-led course, we provide you with 5 E-learning modules on all of the theoretical aspects of community interpreting, including the skills you need to master and the techniques you will be tested on.

We also give you free access to our CPD library to help you become familiar with the types of terminology used in the appointments that you will be attending as a Level 3 qualified interpreter. We facilitate 1-2-1 tutorials with our experienced tutors who will be happy to answer any questions you have, and we also enable you to have a mock exam – basically a ‘dry run’ under exam conditions, where you can test yourself and get feedback on your performance ahead of your real exam.

What happens after the Level 3 exam?

Once you have taken the exam, the assessor will mark it and you will receive your results within six weeks. If you’ve passed both units, you will receive a certificate which you can proudly take to agencies who will be happy to onboard you and start offering you assignments.

And that’s it! It’s this simple. You could be qualified in less than six months from enrolment – and if you are really dedicated, possibly in as little as two to three months! (And if you already have the Level 3 and are looking for ways to take the next step into public service interpreting, don’t miss our next blog!)

So what are you waiting for? Contact us today and join our Level 3 Certificate for Community Interpreting course.