Interpreter: why the minimum working time is 4 hours or more


Have you ever wondered how the interpreter’s schedule is built? The interpreter receives payment for the time spent at the event, not for the number of words spoken, the speech intensity or the number of people in the room.

The time is divided into slots of 4 and 8 hours, morning and afternoon. Next, it will get clear why this is important.

In case an interpreter is needed for a short time, for the notorious “it’s only half an hour”, the assignment shall be sold as four hours. This applies to interpreting assignments of one hour or ninety minutes.

Let me explain why. There are three aspects: training, logistics and the structure of working time.


Interpreter: working time structure


Today, there is abundance of work for interpreters in Ukraine. My colleagues and I may receive up to five orders for one day. The dilemma can be simply solved – first booked, first served, rather than getting the odd-come-short.

The interpreter has a calendar where interpreting assignments are entered. They fill a specific day or half-day. If assignments for that day arrive, they can no longer accept them.

Let’s look at three examples of assignments:

  1. If the assignment is from 9 am to 11 am, it is a standard half-day, after which the interpreter can take another half-day of work from another client on the other side of the city.


  1. If 4 hours of the assignments are scheduled from 11 am to 1 pm, then lunch break, and then – from 2 pm to 4 pm, the interpreter will take payment for the whole day because it is unlikely to sell time before 11 am or after 4 pm.


  1. If the assignment lasts more than four hours, it shall be paid at the full-time rate. After all, if there comes an offer for the full working day, e.g. from 10 am to 6 pm, what is the point of holding on to a shorter event? The interpreter will only do this if the payment is equal to the standard payment for the day.


For the sake of clarity, find attaches a photo of the page from my diary for September, 2017.

On September ,20, you can see how the slot-based system works.


Preparation for interpreting assignment


They prepare for a half-hour assignment in the same way as they do for a three day assignment. Furthermore, it requires an even more thorough preparation because during several day assignments there is time to get around and get going. In the process, an interpreter improves the quality and accuracy after several hours of work because they can get to better understand what is happening.

In the case of a half-hour assignment, the responsibility is much higher exactly because of the short time. Everything should be as accurate, clear and understandable as possible, from the first minute.

It requires the preparation, you need to come earlier and carefully go with the client through the task, find out the names, surnames and other information that Google will not help about. This is first-hand information only.

Preparation takes up to two hours on average, and includes the study of materials, the study of the topic and Google search. There are assignments that take several days of preparation.




It takes time to get to and from the venue. Add half an hour before the interpreting starts when you must be at the venue. Then, the interpreting itself. Possible delays after the originally planned time. Do you want to bargain for an extra 15-20 minutes?

In real life, this happens much more often than one could imagine. It is not possible to schedule another assignment back-to-back. My personal plans were shattered several times when the assignment suddenly extended 1-2 hours longer than planned.

In this job, you very often do not belong to yourself and can hardly manage your free time. Interpreters are only humans, and they have the same needs as other people. Very often, though, their free time belongs to customers, too.

It’s about daily preparations in the evenings. Sometimes you need to talk to the speaker the day before. Not to mention the assignments in other cities when you travel to the venue the evening before or take an overnight trip. This explains, among other things, the high fees for interpreting services.

Language interpretation – consecutive and simultaneous – is one of the most difficult human activities. It requires the utmost dedication, careful preparation, excellent health, and self-care in order to last lifelong, until you retire.


This area is therefore carefully regulated. But with some simple rules and respect for each other, it’s easy to build long-term partnerships. In this case, an experienced interpreter will work at your event and provide high-quality services.

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