//Every interpreter is bilingual… but not every bilingual is an interpreter! – Part 1

For some people, being able to speak more than one language is simply a matter of fate. Often, individuals are born into families where a second and even a third language are spoken. In the United States, due to the influx of immigration, legal and illegal, we are finding more and more children being raised “bilingual”. For decades, first generation immigrants have brought forth offspring that grow up speaking a second language.

Interestingly, these languages, learned at a young age and considered their mother tongues, as they are primarily taught by parents, tend to loose “strength” as the youngsters naturally begin to rapidly embrace the English language, due to a greater exposure to it in the school systems.  Once part of such system, and after it is determined that the student speaks another language, school officials must, by law, “evaluate the child’s facility with English to determine whether the student needs services such as special instruction to improve his or her English” .

This preservationist concern, along with what would seem like inevitable endless media exposure, bombards the children with a number of experiences that provide them with the opportunity to build an arsenal of words. This arsenal, tied to concepts, eventually allows them to communicate more effectively with other English speaking members of society. Unfortunately, and this is the reality of many, if a similar level of linguistic instruction is not secured simultaneously, the individual’s ability to match his knowledge of English with his “mother tongue” deteriorates as, again, the subject continues to experience more words, more concepts, in sum, more “effective” ways of expressing his/her ideas in English.

Clearly, these bilingual people are unique individuals with the special ability to communicate a great deal of their thoughts in a second language. However, the level in which these individuals can be successful at doing this can vary tremendously depending on whether or not the person has had the opportunity to maintain the learning process of both languages – comparable, current and meaningful. An interpreter, on the other hand, at least the ideal-type, is a bilingual who, after years of preparation, dedication, and TRAINING achieves an advanced and equal level of knowledge in both languages. This knowledge allows said interpreter to preserve the true meaning and spirit of the interpreted message.