In the field of Korean-English interpretation, there are plenty of amateurs, but very few professionals.
An inconvenient truth that is unacknowledged by so many in the language services industry is that there are only a handful of Korean interpreters working in the U.S. today who can truly be considered professional interpreters. Being “fluent” in both English and Korean is not enough to make someone a competent Korean-English Interpreter. A competent Korean-English interpreter is someone who accurately conveys the substance, tone and nuance of a speaker's message, and does so equally well in either language. It takes years of education, training and experience -- in addition to the right temperament -- to produce a highly qualified Korean-English interpreter. But the disturbing reality is that an overwhelming majority of Korean language interpreters in the U.S. have no educational background, formal training or experience in the art of interpretation. (The situation is somewhat better in Korea, where two elite foreign language institutions turn out dozens of formally trained interpreters every year.)
A competent interpreter accurately conveys the substance, tone and nuance of a speaker's message, and does so equally well in either direction.
And because true professional Korean interpreters are so rare in the U.S., many individuals with virtually no formal training or experience in translation or interpretation – with no particular qualification other than being bilingual – throw themselves into (or are thrown into) the arena of serious interpretation. Nowhere is this more evident than in the U.S. courts, where insular bureaucrats have instituted utterly low standards for “court-certified” interpreters, resulting in the current pool of dubiously qualified, poorly paid court interpreters who roam the halls of justice. A word to the wise: Court interpreter certification in the U.S. is merely a legal qualification, and not an indication of the level of the interpreter's proficiency.
When communication between parties involved in business negotiation is facilitated by a competent interpreter, a highly productive relationship can develop by virtue of the smooth communicative environment that the interpreter helps to create. On the other hand, poorly executed interpretation in a business meeting can harm a relationship. In a legal setting, the meaning of statements can be altered by imprecise interpretation, with serious consequences. These would appear to be self-evident statements, except for the disconcerting reality that unqualified or under-qualified interpreters are hired for important meetings and depositions every day.
To be sure, even amateur Korean interpreters have roles to play in certain undemanding situations, such as guided tours, shopping, and parent-teacher conferences. And it would be reasonable to expect to pay lower rates for the services of such interpreters. However, such interpreters cannot be expected to properly convey nuanced expressions, complex trains of thought, and technical terminology. When searching for a Korean interpreter for important proceedings such as business negotiations, client interviews, and depositions, it should be remembered that there is a clear distinction between run-of-the-mill, amateur interpreters (relatively easy to find) and professionally trained Korean interpreters (not so easy to find). Korean Translation Group specializes in providing experienced, professionally trained Korean interpreters to discerning clients.
In the end, business decisions have consequences, and choosing an interpreter is a business decision. You may save some money by using an amateur interpreter, but you should ask yourself this question: How much money saved would justifiy the consequences?