One common misconception about interpretation and translation is that “any bilingual can do it”. That could not be further from the truth. In reality, it takes a lot of time and practice even before becoming an effective Interpreter or Translator. This is because conversational language proficiency is insufficient to interpret or translate effectively.
As professional linguists, we are specifically trained to understand and communicate within a spectrum of registers. Even more, conversation with people rarely stays to just one specific topic, meaning that the linguist MUST understand and be prepared to utilize terminology for any given conversation. On a deeper level, a linguist MUST convey the original message using terminology familiar to the recipients, which means using terminology that is understood in the manner intended. Different regions and countries may have local variations that the linguist must account for. We are all familiar with this concept, but as professional linguists, we must have registers and terms ingrained well enough to be accessible at a moment’s notice.
While connotations, registers, and vocabulary differences across regions are indeed complex subjects, the simple fact remains: just as not everyone has the qualifications to be a doctor, lawyer, or specialist in any other field, the same goes for Interpreters and Translators. Would we really go to our friends, family, or just anyone that spoke our language to provide these specialized services for us? Realistically, probably not. By allowing friends, family, or simply someone that is “bilingual” to facilitate communication in these contexts, one is actually allowing that person to play those roles. Healthcare, training, business dealings, and other interactions are only as effective as those facilitating the communication. You simply cannot provide top quality care or interactions if you are being hampered by poor communication and / or understanding. If effective communication is required, then professional linguists truly are a necessity.