Where interpreters work

Conference interpreters serve the demand for high-quality interpretation services from clients who need to be sure of perfect communication.

These clients may be private companies, associations, professional conference organisers, governments, international organisations, and so on. Depending on how often they need them, they may use the services of freelance interpreters on an ad hoc basis or may recruit staff interpreters, or both.

For example, an international professional association may have a single annual congress lasting one or two days for which it will recruit freelance interpreters. In contrast, the European Commission interpreting service organises dozens of meetings in parallel every day and has several hundred staff interpreters. It also recruits freelance interpreters to handle the wide fluctuations in the number of meetings taking place at any one time.

Freelance interpreters may be recruited directly by their clients, but the contract more frequently passes through the mediation of professional conference organisers (PCO) and/or through the services of a consultant interpreter.

Different markets, different places

The market for interpreting services is very different in different places. The Japanese market, for example, mainly requires interpretation to and from English and Japanese. In Brussels, the European Institutions need interpreters with a larger number of passive languages. In some cities, such as Paris, Brussels, Geneva, New York, Nairobi, and Tokyo, there are relatively large numbers of international conferences and other meetings, and a correspondingly large number of interpreters.

Conference interpreters are a rare commodity

There are no more than a few hundred conference interpreters in even the largest of these cities, and only a few thousand in the whole world. The structure of demand for interpretation has changed over time, but the demand is still there. Given its linguistic diversity and historical tradition, Europe is still the largest interpreting market, but the requirements in other parts of the world, particularly Asia, are growing rapidly.

Recommended citation format:
AIIC. "Where interpreters work". aiic.net November 28, 2011. Accessed July 10, 2020. <http://aiic.net/p/4011>.