New technologies

To be a true vehicle of multilingual communication, a conference interpreter has to carry out several complex tasks simultaneously.

To be a true vehicle of multilingual communication, a conference interpreter has to carry out several complex tasks simultaneously.

S/he has to:

  • listen to the speaker and observe the non-verbal signals of his message, as well as the reactions he arouses among and between the recipients of that message;
  • analyse a live and ephemeral message comprehensively, i.e. both the explicit and implicit message;
  • interpret the message in another language, taking due account of the formal and substantive characteristics of a different culture;
  • establish eye-contact with his audience, using gestures where appropriate, to make sure that the message has been received.

It is therefore essential to have a direct view of the overall proceedings, of which the message to be interpreted forms a part.

New technologies open up horizons which conference interpreters generally welcome. The information society, for instance, broadens the choice of sources which interpreters can consult so as better to prepare their meetings. Technical or ergonomic improvements in interpreter's consoles or booths also constitute considerable progress.

Other recent developments, however, in particular in teleconferencing, give rise to mixed feelings. Cost-effectiveness and value added or subtracted, in terms of the quality of multilingual communication, have to be evaluated correctly, taking due account of the disadvantages (i.e. the combined effect of several phenomena: the message is stripped of its non-verbal content; the other participant's verbal and non-verbal reactions to the speaker and among themselves are not perceived; the screens glitter; there is no way of assessing how the interpreted message has been received; there is a sense of alienation; and there is no daylight).

As instruments of multilingual communication, new technologies should not lead to a reduction in the quality of interpreting or a worsening of interpreters' working conditions.

For all these reasons, the conference interpreters of: AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters), the BDÜ (Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer), the European Court of Justice, the WCO (World Customs Organisation), the European Parliament, the JICS (Joint Interpreting and Conference Service) covering the European Commission, the Council of Ministers, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the European Investment Bank and the specialised agencies of the European Union), have adopted the following Code for the use of new technologies in conference interpretation.

Recommended citation format:
AIIC. "New technologies". March 11, 2004. Accessed July 11, 2020. <>.

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