Selecting conference interpreters

Your conference agenda is set. Your speakers have been chosen. Do you know where to find interpreters? How do you make sure your interpreters are of sufficient calibre? Can you judge their CV, measure their experience, assess their language skills, their professionalism, and their ethics?

An AIIC consultant interpreter can help you to get the best team of interpreters for your meeting, at your venue, that meet your requirements.

Selection criteria

Your consultant interpreter will look for the following when selecting interpreters:

  • Training:  Conference interpreters nowadays hold at least one university degree in addition to a diploma from a tertiary interpreting school. Interpreters are trained in both simultaneous interpretation (in booths) and in consecutive interpretation. There are only a handful of interpreting schools that provide really professional training, and they are a solid guarantee of quality.
  • Language combination: The interpreters on your team must cover all the conference languages. Ideally, they should all understand all the languages spoken at your meeting and will work into their respective mother tongue (“A” language). Relay interpreting  -- taking the output of another interpreter as the source – should be done only for languages rarely used at conferences. It results in a slight delay in the interpretation and carries the risk of multiplying possible misinterpretations.
  • Experience:  Your consultant interpreter will try to find interpreters who have experience of the subject of the meeting or with the organisation, especially for highly technical subjects or specialised organisations.
  • Skill:  Not all meetings are the same, nor do they demand the same aptitudes from interpreters. The interpreter who accompanies a Head of State needs to be particularly discreet, flexible and diplomatic. A medical conference, on the other hand, calls for interpreters capable of working at high speed with complicated terminology. While TV interviews or debates that are interpreted will demand from interpreters both speed and eloquence.
  • Ethics:  Membership of AIIC means abiding by a Code of Ethics that prescribes absolute professional secrecy.  This means members will refrain from deriving any personal gain whatsoever from confidential information they may have acquired while interpreting. You will no doubt want to be sure that all your interpreters adhere to the same standard.
  • Collegiality:  AIIC interpreters are further bound by obligations of moral assistance and fraternity. Interpretation is team work: interpreters work in teams and must get along with each other and help each other. Let your consultant interpreter select interpreters suited to the job and who know each other, appreciate each other’s qualities and help out.
  • Place of meeting: In some cities where headquarters of international organisations are, such as Paris, Brussels or Geneva, there are many interpreters. In other places there are far fewer. This is the result both of history and of demand.
  • To limit the cost of interpretation, a consultant interpreter will usually recruit first from closest to the venue, then from other cities nearby and finally from other countries.

Recommended citation format:
AIIC. "Selecting conference interpreters". aiic.co.uk November 28, 2011. Accessed June 29, 2017. <http://aiic.co.uk/p/4025>.