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This article by Katharine Allen, co-President of InterpretAmerica and former contributor to The NAJIT Observer, was originally published on October 11, 2013. The subject covered is of great importance to us: professional training. The article remains relevant despite the lapse of time since its original...

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After I wrote that, I realized that “how not to ask for repetitions” could be taken two ways, so I’d like to address both of them.

Part I: How Not to Need Repetitions.

1. Practice your active listening skills. 2. Train yourself to understand different accents (in both your working languages). 3. Buy sound-enhancing equipment for yourself, so you can hear better. 4. Understand the law, case law, and court processes so you can make a good educated guess at something you aren’t sure if you heard or not. (For example, memorizing possible sentences associated with certain crimes.) 5. Learn to talk faster. I suggest tongue twisters and shadowing the news. 6. Work on the Stare of Death you can give the chatterbox who’s standing behind you (not a party to the case). 7. Practice gestures and body language that will help you control the flow of witness testimony so you don’t forget long segments … 8. … but also strengthen your short-term memory and note-taking skills so you can remember longer segments.

I’ve been working as a staff interpreter for a long time in various jurisdictions, so I’ve hired freelance interpreters (of languages from Achi to Zuni) hundreds of times—probably thousands. And let’s face it: every court has its favorites. For any language for which a court has multiple options, certain freelancers (or agencies, but that’s another subject) will be the go-to when there’s a big assignment, or a last-minute one, or a vacation to be covered. Well-meaning administrative offices try to encourage or enforce a fair rotation, but there will always be someone who has an extra edge. A question asked by prospective and working freelance interpreters alike is often: how can I get more work? Or the flip side: is there really enough work for me? So here’s the answer: There may not be enough work for everyone, but there will always be enough work for those who go the extra mile to make working with them a pleasure. So how do you become one of those people? Let’s see: