The career journey of a top public service interpreter

Published on 11 Mar 2020 | Posted In Interpreting careers - Interpreting in the justice sector.

Simona Hodor (DPSI NRPSI RPSI MCIL CL) is a Romanian interpreter based in Romford. She shared her career journey with us:

I started my career as an interpreter in 2011 by doing some work for a local language services firm in Leicester. Once I had gained a bit of experience, I decided to do a Level 3 qualification in Community Interpreting, which allowed me to start working as an interpreter for the NHS in London.

After a few years working for the NHS, I wanted to take the next step in my career and decided to undertake a Level 6 Diploma in Public Service Interpreting with a legal focus (DPSI – Law) so that I could work on more complex assignments in the justice sector. This took me from working in rewarding but fairly straightforward roles in settings like hospitals, to working in high-pressure courtrooms interpreting complex legal terminology. This demanding work really helped to hone and develop my skills and has also helped me to gain more NHS work – a doctor on a recent assignment was amazed by my ability to simultaneously interpret. I soon found that I enjoyed combining both types of work and that the autonomy of being a fully qualified freelancer meant that I could pick and choose between them.

Since gaining the DPSI, I have gone on to gain a place on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) and Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) Chartered Linguist status, and I am now qualified to train other linguists. I am also a member of the Association of Police and Court Interpreters (APCI) and have both the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and Non-Police Personnel Vetting (NPPV) check for working with the Met Police and National Crime Agency.

These accolades, along with more than 4,000 hours of experience, have given me the credibility needed to work at the highest levels of interpreting and stand out from my competitors – having become Chartered, which very few linguists are. However, being a successful public service interpreter is as much about the person and their attitude, as it is about skills and qualifications. You have to be totally committed to developing your career and invest in doing so. To be on the NRPSI, you have to demonstrate 10 hours of interpreting work per year, and as a Chartered Linguist you have to commit to doing 30 hours of training per year. However, whether it is required or not, committing to continuing professional development (CPD) is what will set you apart. There is always room to keep learning, and if short courses become available and are relevant to me, I will do them. I recently undertook one in Latin and Romanian.

As a freelancer working in a wide variety of environments including working with Solicitors and with the Police (where, in a day I can go from Crown Court, to the Old Bailey, to a high security prison!), I have learned the importance of professionalism. This involves everything from the way you introduce and present yourself to the way you dress.

Public service interpreting is not something you can be in purely for the money. My favourite thing about the job is working with and helping people. Secondly, it’s the diversity – I couldn’t work in an office 9-5, I would find it so boring in comparison. As a freelancer, I have set up my own business, ‘Multi-Lingual’, and invest in marketing including business cards for added professionalism. The only downside for me is not always knowing how long a job will take. For example, I was once booked for a job at the port in Dover for six hours, and it ended up being 11 hours, which was obviously very tiring! So the ‘flexibility’ of the role has to be two-way – you also have to be prepared to be flexible.

I would highly recommend a career as a public service interpreter to anyone who is prepared to take their personal and professional development seriously to get to the highest levels of a profession where you can make a real difference to people’s lives in a highly skilled role.