In the US, one of the most recognized language skill evaluation tools is the ILR, or Interagency Language Round Table scale. As we have previously posted, the ILR scale provides detailed criteria for evaluating language proficiency.
The Round Table also defines specific levels for language translation skills. The latest addition to its language level system is a scale for interpretation performance.
As with the other scales, the performance indicators are not linked to any official test, but can be used to help develop assessment tools. The ILR highly recommends that interpreters be evaluated not on the basis of traditional tests, but through situation-based evaluations:
The only reliable way to gauge how well an individual will perform in any given assignment is to administer tests that assess interpreting skills in a given setting, reflecting real-world tasks and content. For ratings to be useful in predicting actual performance, test production should be assessed directly by professionally rated practitioners. Self-assessments are neither reliable nor valid.
The interpretation performance scale defines levels from 1+ to 5, eschewing the “0+” and “1” levels listed for translation. I wondered about this, but concluded that with a dictionary or Internet, it’s perfectly possible to come up with very bad translations even with almost no language knowledge – but actually speaking words on the spot is a different ball game.
From Level 3 on up, an interpreter is considered competent to practice professionally.
Interestingly – but logically, since interpreting is oral –communication skills represent the main difference between a level 4, 4+ or 5 interpreter. Their “delivery” ranges from “very good” to “excellent” to “outstanding,” respectively.