Advice to students wishing to become conference interpreters

You’re attracted to a career that would enable you to work with languages. You’ve heard about conference interpreting but you’re not sure exactly what it involves, what studies to pursue, or what opportunities may be available. Here are some questions to consider, and some further information that may point you toward finding your answers.

How can I study to become a conference interpreter?

What do conference interpreters do?

Conference interpreters:

  • bridge the gap in all kinds of multilingual settings where speakers want to express themselves in their own language and still understand one another (conferences, negotiations, press briefings, seminars, depositions, TV broadcasts: you name it!)
  • do not do written translation: translators work with written texts, interpreters convey ideas orally
  • do not just parrot: they convert ideas expressed in one language (the source language) into another language (the target language) as smoothly and idiomatically as possible, preserving the meaning, tone and nuance of the original speaker
  • interpret "consecutively": i.e. the interpreter is in the same room as the participants, listening carefully to what is said, perhaps taking notes; when each speaker pauses, the interpreter conveys the same message from source to target language
  • interpret "simultaneously": i.e. the interpreters work in a team sitting in a soundproof booth; they take turns conveying each speaker's ideas from source to target language in real-time; the audience in the conference room listens through headsets
  • interpret using "chuchotage" or "whispering": i.e. the interpreter is in the same room as the participants providing a whispered interpretation in real-time to a small number of listeners

Can I be a professional conference interpreter without proper training?

Perhaps: some have managed it, some still do...

  • the interpreters who provided the first simultaneous interpretation at the post-World War II trials had to sink or swim: they had no choice but to train themselves, but you don't have to reinvent the wheel!
  • since the 1970s, interdisciplinary research has helped us better grasp the complex processes involved in interpreting and develop new and effective teaching methods
  • systematic training today is the surest route to expertise and successful practice in any profession
  • many hours of effective practice with other trainees and with guidance from experienced teacher/practitioners is essential
  • AIIC promotes best practice in schools by surveying training programmes and providing hands-on support to teachers.

What will a conference interpretation training programme teach me?

To interpret ... or more specifically

  • to understand what the speaker wants to say
  • to grasp what lies behind the speaker's words
  • to keep the message in context
  • to convey it consecutively or simultaneously
  • to learn a special note-taking technique
  • to practice concentration, discourse analysis and fast reaction
  • to build useful glossaries
  • to develop public speaking skills
  • to prepare for different types of assignments
  • to manage stressful situations
  • to observe a code of conduct
  • to prepare for entry into the profession

What kind of personal traits do I need to be a conference interpreter?

These are some of the key skills that interpreters make use of at one time or another:

  • a polished command of their own native language over a range of registers and domains
  • a complete mastery of their non-native languages
  • a familiarity with the cultures in the countries where their working languages are spoken
  • a commitment to helping others communicate
  • an interest in and understanding of current affairs, plus an insatiable curiosity
  • world experience away from home and school and a broad general education
  • good training (and usually at least an undergraduate university degree)
  • the ability to concentrate and focus as a discussion unfolds
  • a pleasant speaking voice
  • a friendly, collegial attitude
  • calm nerves, tact, judgment and a sense of humor
  • a willingness to adhere to rules of conduct (e.g. confidentiality)

Choosing a school: what should I look for?

  • Choosing a school is one of the most important steps you will take on your path to becoming a trained conference interpreter. In order to assist you with your research and decision-making, AIIC regularly contacts many schools worldwide which offer conference interpreting training programmes and asks them to respond to a series of questions; the last time the survey was conducted 178 schools were contacted. The schools' answers are published on this website. For a variety of reasons (e.g. curriculum in transition, incorrect contact address, etc.) some schools did not respond to the survey questionnaire. This means that, for the present, you may not find them listed on the AIIC website.
  • If you have not already done so, you might want to check out the online Directory of Schools. This Directory will provide you with basic information about any school that has responded to the survey, and give you a link to its own website, if available.
  • When comparing schools and training programmes, you might establish a list of specific criteria which are important to you (location, scholarship support, etc). You might also consult our guide to best practice in training and add some of the considerations below to your personal shopping list:
    • Don't be in a hurry! Conference interpreters need to have accumulated quite a broad general knowledge as well as an excellent command of their languages (this is one profession where age is in our favor!).
    • Spend some time living and studying or working where your languages are spoken before applying to any training programme. The more you are familiar with the relevant cultural context, the stronger your understanding and expression will be.
    • Opt for a graduate training programme rather than an undergraduate programme. Graduate programmes assume that applicants have a solid command of the languages in their combination and can therefore focus more on skill acquisition as well as advanced language enhancement and an introduction to the theoretical basis of interpreting.
    • Don't be put off if the school you like best requires you to take an aptitude test! This is intended to help both you and the teachers on the jury get a glimpse of your current abilities in order to assess your readiness to start the programme...and is nothing personal! In some countries, the local legislation does not permit aptitude testing.
    • Take a look at the school's curriculum:
      • Does the school provide any advice on career prospects?
      • Are the classes offered going to cover your specific training needs?
      • Are classes designed and taught by practicing professional interpreters?
      • Do some of the teachers share your native language?
      • Does the programme offer classes in both consecutive and simultaneous interpreting?
      • Is there a class which explains professional practice (ethics etc.)?
      • Do outsiders, especially potential employers, attend final exams?
    • Final suggestion: you might consider the possibility of visiting one or more schools and observing a couple of relevant classes. You might also arrange to meet some of the instructors and speak to current students or graduates.

How can I prepare?

  • Some things you can do to increase your chances of success before starting a training programme:
    • go and live where your languages are spoken and immerse yourself in the culture
    • learn more about your planet and your immediate environment
    • increase your general knowledge
    • follow international affairs
    • learn to use a computer
    • learn to take care of yourself and to manage your stress well
    • develop good study skills
    • cultivate patience and the ability to integrate feedback
    • research your training options carefully
    • expand your range of command of your native language
    • to enhance all of your languages, selectively and actively read, watch TV and listen to radio in all your languages

Will a professional conference interpreter's lifestyle suit me?

Try this self-quiz to test your preferences! (There are no wrong answers!)

Question Staff Freelance

Will I have to pass a test or competition to get work?



Will I have to develop my own competitive professional profile?



Will I be responsible for finding my own work?



Will I usually work for the same institution/s?


your choice

Can I work with agencies or a range of employers?



Will my employer schedule my workdays?



May I decline assignments?

not usually


Will I get a regular pay check?



Will I get benefits?


it depends

Will I have to assess my own tax liability?



Can I live where I wish?



Will I have to travel extensively for work?

not necessarily

more likely

Will I have to travel for language enhancement?



Will I have in-house opportunities for career development and training?


less likely

Will I need to belong to a professional network or association?



To find out more about the professional conference interpreter's lifestyle, check out VEGA.

Will my languages be in demand when I have finished training and am looking for work?

  • A very important question... and hard to predict!
    • plan your profile BEFORE you train: some combinations are more "useful" and more portable than others; beware of a flavor-of-the-month push to add a language which is likely to dropped in the future
    • the tsunami of English continues on its course, no doubt about it: English is more widely used than ever, in all its permutations - and you probably want it in your language combination, specially if you plan to work on your local market
    • your decision to work in-house for an international organisation or freelance will probably affect your choice of languages
    • the good news: A recent study by the AIIC Staff Interpreters Committee shows that, as the impact of staff changes and retirements becomes more serious, international institutions now are cooperating with schools to try to predict future training needs and cater to a changing kaleidoscope of interpreting needs

If you are interested in working for an international organisation, visit their websites to find out more about their current and future staffing needs; see how often there is a competitive exam for applicants with your language combination. Scroll down to find a list of organisations.

Will I find work after training?

AIIC provides all kinds of advice and support for newly trained conference interpreters entering the profession, even offering you the chance to ask questions.

What other questions should I ask before taking the plunge?

The AIIC Training & Professional Development will do its best to answer any specific questions you may have. Please post them on the message board below: we will try to help you find the answers.

See also:

International Organisations

Africa - Americas - Asia - Europe


ADB (African Development Bank), Abidjan
African Training and Research Centre in Administration for Development, Morocco
AIPO (African Intellectual Property Organisation), Cameroon
Arab Maghreb Union, Morocco
COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), Zambia
ECA (Economic Commission for Africa), Addis-Ababa
HABITAT (United Nations Division for Human Habitat), Nairobi
ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda), Arusha and Kigali
AU (African Union), Addis-Ababa
UNEP (United Nations Environment Program), Nairobi
UNON (United Nations Office at Nairobi), Nairobi


CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity), Montreal
ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean), Santiago de Chile
FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), Panama
IDB (Inter-American Development Bank), Washington DC.
ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation), Montreal
IMF (International Monetary Fund), Washington DC
MF (Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol), Montreal
OAS (Organisation of American States), Washington DC.
PAHO (Pan American Health Organisation), Washington DC.
UNO (United Nations Organisation), New York
World Bank, Washington DC.


ADB (Asian Development Bank), Philippines
ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific), Bangkok
SPC (South Pacific Commission), Noumea


BIS (Bank for International Settlements), Basel
COE (Council of Europe), Strasbourg,
CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research), Geneva
CEU (Commission of the European Union), Brussels
CICR (International Red Cross Committee), Geneva
ECJ (European Court of Justice), Luxembourg
EP (European Parliament), Luxembourg, Brussels and Strasbourg
EPO (European Patent Office), Munich
ESA (European Space Agency), Paris
FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation), Rome
IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), Vienna
ICDO (International Civil Defence Organisation), Geneva
ICC (International Criminal Court), The Hague
ICJ (International Court of Justice), The Hague
ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia), The Hague
IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development), Rome
IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies), Geneva
ILO (International Labour Office), Geneva
IMO (International Maritime Organisation), London
INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organisation), Lyon Cedex
IOC (International Olympic Committee), Lausanne
IOM (International Organisation for Migration), Geneva
IPU (Inter-Parliamentary Union), Geneva
ITU (International Telecommunications Union), Geneva
Latin Union, Paris
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), Brussels
OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), Paris
OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), The Hague
OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe), Vienna
UNESCO (United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organisation), Paris
UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation), Vienna
UNO (United Nations Organisation), Geneva, Vienna
UPU (Universal Postal Union), Bern
WCO (World Customs Organisation), Brussels
WEU (Western European Union), Brussels, Paris
WFP (World Food Programme), Rome
WHO (World Health Organisation), Geneva
WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation), Geneva
WMO (World Meteorological Organisation), Geneva
WTO (World Tourism Organisation), Madrid
WTO (World Trade Organisation), Geneva

AIIC Training & Professional Development April 2006

Recommended citation format:
AIIC Training and Professional Development. "Advice to students wishing to become conference interpreters". September 20, 2001. Accessed June 22, 2017. <>.

Message board

Comments 54

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Hi Mina

If you have completed your undergraduate studies then in formal terms you can start a post-graduate course as soon as your active and passive languages are strong enough - for AIIC that means "equivalent to educated native speaker"

Time working in a company will be good for both language skills and life experience, which is also very useful for interpreters. There is however no exactly right answer to your question. 

If you'd like to get a few more opinions on the subject try this Q&A page where many AIIC interpreters - some with ZH - can give your their views as well.

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Mina Bradley


Hi I'm writing to inquire as to the specifics concerning work experience prior to my application to graduate training programs in interpretation.

My native language is Chinese (Mandarin) and I'm a fluent user of English (117 out of possible 120 points in TOEFL, 331 for GRE). I'm currently interning at a tech startup as a marketing assistant but my plans after graduating from college are still hazy. I hope to enter a conference interpretation program in 2018, but am wondering if I'm rushing my career/studies too much before gaining enough experience. As it stands, a training certificate will certainly assist me in finding more work and establish a solid network. 

Could you offer me some informed opinions?

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Lena Brandis


How can I gauge my language proficiency to decide when to apply to a program? How decide if I know enough? Just give ita  try? 

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Hi Anonymous,

Sorry for the delay in replying. No you're not too old. There are plenty of interpreters who started interpreting in their thirties and even forties. Your life experience, extra general and historical knowledge that age brings, and previous jobs are often a great advantage when learning to interpret.You're quite right to want to enroll in a good interpreting school! Training is key! For more information about late-starters in interpreting have a look at these Q&As

Good luck

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Thank you for this excellent overview. My question in a nutshell: am I too old to study interpretation and start a successful career?My background: I am a native Arabic speaker, fluent also in French and English (I majored in French and lived in France for a little over a year; as for English, I started learning it as a toddler, I used it as a first language professionally, and my family is multilingual with English being one of our languages).I am interested in starting an interpretation career, one of the many reasons being that my husband works internationally and therefore I need to choose a new career path that I enjoy and that I can carry with me wherever I go. I have had some limited experience doing consecutive interpretation as part of some of my previous jobs, and I have always enjoyed it. Now I would like to take it to the next level, and being currently located in Beirut, I can aspire to enroll at the excellent interpretation school here. My biggest hesitation however, is my age: I am 38 years old going on 39. Will age be a real handicap in terms of managing the training and finding jobs as a beginner? Has it been done to start an interpretation career at 40?Thanks in advance for your insight!

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Hi Hajer,

I'm not an expert on the Arabic interpreting markets, so I suggest you ask you question at this site - - where you'll find lots of interpreters, AIIC members and others, with more information about Arabic markets.

I can tell you that Italian won't help you at the UN, so you'll need an FR or EN B in the Arabic booth.

I can't answer you on the headscarf issue, but I'd be very surprised if it were a problem. Again, colleagues at the site above will have more authoritative information on that too.


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Hajer Messaoud



Well, I'm writing to ask two questions. 

I know different languages (Italian, French, English, Arabic and German). I can speak perfectly some of them and I'm improving the other ones. My mother tongues are Italian (I was born in Italy and have lived there for 20 years) and Arabic (my parents are Tunisian). Now I'm studying foreign languages in France, so my French is deeply improving. The problem is that the 6 official languages recognised by the UN are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. So, does that mean that Italian cannot be my B-language? The other question is: is wearing the headscarf an obstacle to working at the UN? Thank you.

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Andy Gillies


Dear Despoina,

If you haven't already, you should have a look at the AIIC Schools Directory 

It lists 3 schools that teach DE into EL and EL into DE. That doesn't necessarily mean that they offer EL A, DE B, EN C, as a combination but it's the best place to start. The reason your having trouble may also be linked to the combination EL-DE DE-EL for which there may be a very limited market. And as such the schools are not very interested in it. (Quite apart from the difficulty of finding qualified teachers). I know that in the EU the EL booth sometimes does a retour, and therefore your retour into DE may have a market there (together with your EN C). But I'm no expert on your combination and don't know anything about the private market its prospects. For more information about that why not ask your question(s) on

Other options for you might be to study with the EL A, DE C, EN C, combination and look towards adding a B later. Before doing this you should check if that is a combination with market prospects. Alternatively the university you mention might allow you to study with DE A, EL B, by way of exception knowing that later you will revert to EL A, DE B. But you'd have to put that to them (and it may not be the best way to learn to interpret anyway).

I hope that's helpful. Good luck


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Despoina Passa


Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to ask some information about postgraduate programs of conference interpreting. My native language is Greek, my active language is German and my third language is English.

I have done some research concerning the schools that offer postgraduate programs of conference interpreting in Europe and I am facing great difficulty finding a school that gives someone the chance to choose Greek as the first language and German as the second one. Actually, the only program that I am aware of at the time being is that of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece. I have also contacted the Mainz University in Germany, since Greek language is a part of its curriculum but unfortunately

I was informed that I can choose it only as the active language (language B) and not as the native one, which in this case has to be German. Therefore I would be deeply grateful if you could give me any further advice of how I can continue my research, if there is any other school that perhaps I am not aware of, or if such a language combination exists due to market request at all.

Thank you for your time in advance.

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Alix Machiels


Hello !

I will soon graduate and obtain a bachelor's degree in translation, with a 3 language combination : French (mother tongue), English and Chinese. Interpretation studies are not available in this language combination in my school (Institut libre Marie Haps) - and not even in Belgium - so I am considering entering a master in Taiwan, China or France after spending some time in a Chinese-speaking country to develop my Chinese skills.

I think studying in Asia would be more interesting for such a language combination, but some people warned me of the diploma problem: apparently, to work for governmental or international organisations, I need a recognized diploma, which could not be the case with a Chinese or a Taiwanese master.

Could anyone give me more information about those diploma requirements in diplomacy or the EU / UNO / UNESCO... ? Has anyone who studied in Asia had this type of problem ? What's more, has anyone heard about the programme offered at the National Taiwan University? It seems good but it is still pretty new!

Thank you very much!

Alix ( Brussels )

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Andy Gillies


hi Alia

Let me go thru your questions one at a time.

If you'd like a second (third or even fourth) opinion you could post your question to this Q&A

1. too old to become a conference interpreter Definitely not. It can be an advantage to have a few years more life experience.

2. DE-EN A/B is certainly in demand. But there's a lot of competition. DE-ZH A/B possibly. Less competition. DE-EN-ZH A/B/C. I doubt there is much of a market for Chinese as a C only. But I'm not an expert on this combination. Best look at, or ask a question about that combination here Have a look at the questions tagged "mandarin" or "chinese" like these...

From what I've seen there you probably need 2-5 years in China to master Chinese to a B level.

3. "I've never lived in an English-speaking country" You probably should and/or need to. A B language should be at a level equivalent to an educated native-speaker.

4. "One semester in China.. qualify me for Chinese C" It's very very unlikely. A year, more likely 2, would appear to be a reasonable minimum for a language like Chinese.

5. "The university I graduated from is now offering…" I can't recommend one university over another. But you compare them here... My advice would be work on your languages first. From what you say you may well not be admitted to any interpreting course simply because your languages are not up to the required level.

Good luck

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Alia Groschupf


Dear Madams and Sirs,

I am 28 years old and come from Germany. I finished my Bachelor's degree (Business Communication Chinese) in 2012 from a German university. I can speak English fluently (IELTS score 8 out of 9 possible credits) and my skills in Mandarin Chinese are very good as well, however I am not a fluent user.

I would like to become a conference interpreter with German as A language, English as a B language and Mandarin Chinese as a C language. I might wanna add Spanish as another C language, however I only have a good basic command of the language up to now.

My primary questions up to now are:

  1. I am basically a little worried of being just too old for becoming a conference interpreter. On the other hand I think it is never too late to do the right thing?
  2. Will there be any demand for this combination in the future? I have thought about taking Mandarin as a B language. But I am not sure that I can actually master it and if I do - will anyone "believe" that a German person actually CAN speak Mandarin at a level this high and eventually book me? I am asking this because everywhere you tell people that you can speak / understand Chinese they're like "this is impossible!".
  3. I have never lived in a anglophone country for a long time, but I have visited the US a zillion times throughout my life, sometimes I stayed for up to 6 weeks or even 2 months. I have done several translations from German into English since I am working in market research, I guess my transations were ok as they always have used them. And I have always enjoyed translating, the only thing is I want to take it to another level and INTERPRET.
  4. I have spent one semester in Shenzhen, China, to attend classes for language training for intl. students. Does this "qualify" me at all to assume that I could take Mandarin as a C language?
  5. The university I graduated from is now offering a MA in conference interpreting with Chinese as an A, B, or C language (I even found it on this page). Would you recommend to take my MA there or to better go abroad? The problem might be that the universities abroad are far more expensive and I assume I could receive a scholarship from the university I went to. 

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions!


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Andy Gillies


Hi Jiyeah,

It's a little difficult to reply without knowing what criteria your languages were judged on.

I think it's unlikely that nationality counts. However, the length of time spent in each language environment will be considered and you've spent most time in a Korean-speaking environment.

In Europe schools will receive a student for interview and judge the languages at the interview, regardless of nationality. In some schools it is also possible to be received for interview with A B and to be accepted to the school with B A. It's not assumed that candidates know their best language combination. My advice would be to apply to schools with your language combination (and AIIC lists only 3 here EWHA, ISIT and MIIS), explain clearly your biography and see what they say.

Unfortunately lot of people in your situation are fluent in two languages, but neither of them is at the high standard required for conference interpreting.

However, an interpreting school should only judge this based on good samples of the potential student's language - written but preferably spoken.

Good luck

Andy Gillies

AIIC Training

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Jiyeah Seong-Yu


Hello, I'm having some problems applying to CI programs due to my language combination - more specifically, regarding my A language. I was born in Korea, moved to India at 9, attended an international school for 3 years, went to a French middle school for another 2, before returning to Korea. Here I've completed my high school education in Korean, and am currently in the last month of my Bachelor's degree in International Relations, conducted entirely in English. I feel strongly that my A language is English - I debate and speak much more fluently than I do in Korean. For some time I assumed my A language was Korean, but while I was preparing for my Master's in CI, I realized that English really was my A. So I've started applying to schools in the UK and the States. I've already been accepted at a Korean university's MA in CI (Korean A, English B, French C) The problem is that I'm still South Korean on paper - and with the admissions going on, I've been contacted by some schools, one refusing to accept me because English wasn't my 'native' language (English A, French B), another requiring me to change my A to Korean (English A, Korean B, French C). I am assuming that schools need a criteria to judge a candidate's 'native' language, and that nationality is one. This is why I've elaborated in my statement or purposes about my language combination, about feeling most comfortable using English and so on. I've also attached a 119/120 Toefl iBT score, but I know many students have similar marks regardless of it being their native language. I feel that by insisting on applying with Korean A, I will not perform as competently as I would in English. But it seems that these qualifications don't seem to validate my argument - and I'm worried that even if I do apply to more CI programs, I will be turned down for the same reasons. I'd really like to work with English as A, and with French in the combination as well. What would you suggest I do, if I want to apply with English A? Is it simply impossible, due to technicalities? Thank you in advance, Jiyeah.

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Andy Gillies


Hi Reem, There are very few schools that offer online programs full stop.

But you could investigate FTI (formerly ETI) in Geneva and Glendon School of Translation in Toronto. You'll find both in the AIIC Schools Directory here...

There may be other schools that I'm not aware of. So if you find any others do please mention them here - I'd be interested to know where they are.

You could also try asking your question on this AIIC-sponsored page... There are quite a lot of interpreters, teachers and interpreting students visiting the site and someone might know more than me.


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reem kashef


Thank you for the great effort exerted in the provision of such valuable information. I would like to train to become a simultaneous and conference interpreter. I understand that I need to train in order to become one. Unfortunately I could not find a school in my country, Egypt. Are there any schools that offer online programs?. If yes, how can I find them?. Thank you once again and looking forward to your assistance.

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Andy Gillies


Hi Pooja, Thanks for those interesting questions. I'll try to answer them for you… 

First of all, you mention the combination French into English. Unfortunately that is not a combination that is viable on the market. You will either have to work from French into English AND English into French, or find several languages from which you can work into English and which offer work prospects - eg French, German & Spanish into English at the EU or French & Russian into EN at the UN.

It may be that Bengali, Hindi and English are useful for the Indian Parliament, which employs interpreters. Why not have a look at AIIC's Facebook page In the "posts by others" section you'll see an entry on 7th May by R.K Das. He is an interpreter at the Indian Parliament. He may be able to give you some India-specific suggestions.

To your questions…

  1. "internship, summer courses, job, or any other legal way of staying in any francophone country for a year?" Absolutely, and more than 1 year if you intend to work EN-FR in both directions. For more on language combinations see this page
  2. First of all, unfortunately, doing the course is no guarantee of graduating. The French courses have exams at the end of the 1st and 2nd years and not all students pass either. However, once you've graduated, if your combination is FR-EN, there are good markets available to you. It does take a while to become established as an interpreter however and you are unlikely to immediately earn a fortune.
  3. As I say above, FR into EN is not a combination on its own. Non-EU citizens can't become staff at the EU regardless of language combinations. The UN is an option, but it's not something you should count on achieving - not many manage it. There are very few staff posts available for EN-FR (in both directions) - OECD, Govt of Canada, NATO, for example - and you're likely to need a fair bit of experience before you're considered for one. This page might be helpful if you see yourself as a staffer

Most conference interpreters are freelance. So it might sound daunting, but plenty of us make a good living without being staff. I hope that's useful. It's a tough career to choose, but one I highly recommend. You can also ask professionals for advice on where you'll find lots of AIIC members and trainers ready to help out

Andy Gillies AIIC Training

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Pooja Pratyasha Pal


Dear Sir/Madam, I am an Indian student and I'm going to complete my post graduation(M.A.-French) in India by april 2014. I speak English, Hindi, Bengali(mother tongue), French and Spanish. I am interested in going to France for Master in CI in any one of the 3 schools featuring in your list of Interpretation schools in France. here are my questions: 1) All the 3 schools in the above-mentioned list would only admit candidates who have lived for atleast a year in a country where their B language is spoken. My B language would be French but I haven't lived in any francophone country so far. What do u suggest I do? Look for an internship, summer courses, job, or any other legal way of staying in any francophone country for a year?(Since its not practical to just fly into a country and say "me voila!") 2) Keeping in mind the cost of a 2 year course in Master in Conference Interpretation, is it really feasible? After completion of the course, will I earn enough to say that spending on the training program was "worth it"? 3) which leads to the question that is it going to be easy for me to get a permanent job anywhere in Europe itself (as I don't really like the idea of freelancing). 3) What are the chances of an Indian interpreter being employed for interpreting from French into English, given that there are ample number of native English and French speakers who could do the same? Much as I'm interested in this career path, the above are some of the questions which have brought me to a dead end about making a decision (and I have less than a year to decide). I would be eternally grateful if all my above questions are answered. Thank you in advance!!

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Andy Gillies


Hi Nora, Every now and again students are faced with this problem. There are no schools teaching IT-JP in AIIC's Schools Directory.

However, some schools may try to accommodate you all the same if you show potential. They do this by having a Japanese-speaking teacher (without Italian) and an Italian speaking teacher (without Japanese) in the same classroom. At least one of them will be a conference interpreter, sometimes both. I know this method has been used for Eastern European languages at ESIT in Paris, but also in other schools in Europe.

What I suggest you do is look in the Directory for all the schools that teach Japanese at all (just enter Japanese in the first menu and nothing in the others). Then contact them and ask if there is any way they can accomodate you, including, but not necessarily only, the method I describe above. (There may be other ways of doing it.)

The answer to your question might interest other students to so why not also post it here... ... I would repeat my answer there but you'll also get answers from other trainers.

Andy Gillies

AIIC Training

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Nora Nera


Dear Sir/Madam, I am an italian student who gradueted in Florence University and who presently is spending six months in Japan studying at the Kyoto Gaidai. My intention is to become an interpreter from Italian to Japanaese but untin now I haven't been able to find a school or istitution, in Italy and in Japan as well, that provides professional training for the languages I am interested in. I've been looking for a course of interpretation but I'm still in a desperation. So my questions are: - does a training corse for the combination (italian.Japanese) of languages I chose exist? -what can I do if it doesn't? I would be really grateful if you will give me an advice even if I alredy know it won't be easy. Best regards Eleonora Perna

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Andy Gillies


Hi Paridhi,

The answer to your question is one that a lot of students would be interested in so can I ask you to post it here... ...and then I'll be happy to answer there.

You'll probably also get a few more answers from other colleagues too. all the best

Andy Gillies

AIIC Training


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Paridhi Banerjee


I am a student from India, but I have done all my studies in french, so needless to say that I am fluent in French. I would consider my native language to be English because it's the language that I have complete control over. I can also speak Hindi, Bengali (which is my mother tongue, even though I do not master it perfectly) as well as Tamil, and Spanish.

I am currently in Paris doing my under-grad course in LEA, I am also learning russian. I would like to be a conference interpreter, and I already have a school (ISIT or ESIT) in mind once I have gotten my bachelors degree. I would like to know how to do I prepare myself for the entrance exams (I know I still have 3 years) and are there any other schools that is better? and do you think it would be better if I deepen my knowledge in Hindi ?

Thank you

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I am mother tongue English and fluent in Italian, French & Spanish.

I would like to move into conference interpreting but am not sure how much demand there is for these European languages.

Any advice greatly welcomed.

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I'm invited to take the entrance test for the MA in Conference interpreting at the University of Westminster in April 2007; I would like to prepare for this, is there something more specific I can do than improve my language levels? and specifically I Know I will be asked to do an interpretation exercise during the interviw and it worries me a little bit because I have no specific training to interpret, shoud I try to prepare for this aspect, and if yes how?

Thank you


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Hi Indira!

I'm supposed to take the entrance test for Conference Interpreting in April 2007, I suppose you already took it, I am strongly interested in the contents and , I have some time and would like to prepare myself a little bit, but how?any suggestion? THANKS!


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Dear Jessica,

The aiic Training Committee does not comment on the quality of a particular training course. What we do in this site is collect and publish as much information as possible on the different training options for would-be interpreters. You can then compare this information with the best practices in training, collected by aiic members over decades of teaching experience ( Those best practices amount to an ideal "meilleure formation en interprétation", although we won't point you to a specific school or university.

We also encourage prospective students to ask as much information as the can get from the training institutions they are interested in, including details on entrance tests and alike.

In your case, of course we do not know what exactly went wrong in your admission tests at Geneva, but trying the tests again with fewer languages is perhaps a good idea, especially if one is a B language. Many established colleagues obtained their training in two languages "only" (!) and then added other languages as they went on with their career. You could concentrate on the languages of the countries where you have spent your university years, for example.

As to how to prepare to the entrance tests, the aiic Training Committee has some general advice here: ; but of course much will depend on the particular tasks that compose the entrance test at Geneva. Students tend to focus a lot on knowing their foreign languages well, but one should not underestimate the role of world knowledge, proficiency in your mother tongue and cognitive skills in securing success at entrance tests.

Good luck with your studies


for the The aiic Training Commitee

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I am an English graduate who has been living in Italy for the last 3-4 years and would like to do a Masters in conference interpreting this year. My languages are English (A), Italian(B) and Spanish (C). I would prefer to study in Italy, but most of the courses on offer here provide for those who are native speakers of Italian. Would it be worth my while to study in Italy how to interpret into Italian, or better for me to study elsewhere where I can learn how to interpret into English, as that is the language I would be interpreting into professionally? I would also like to know if I qualify outside of Italy would it be more difficult to find work within Italy?

Any help and advice would be much appreciated!

With thanks


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Kat Barnes


I read the last message with interest as I am in a similar situation. I am English but have been living in Italy for the last 3 years and wish to apply for a masters course in interpreting this year here in Italy, my languages are English (a), Italian (b) and Spanish(c). Most courses here however seem to be directed towards native speakers of Italian, and the modules concentrate on interpreting into Italian. Should I try and get on to one of these courses or would it be more worthwhile looking for a course which is more flexible so I can study how to interpret into English? I am unsure if learning to interpret into Italian will teach me the right skills and help me in my career or if I would be better off looking for a school outside of Italy. Any advice on schools, or general tips would be very much appreciated!

Thanks in advance,


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Jessica Subire


Je suis une étudiante bilingue (français/espagnol), née à Genève, mais habitant actuellement à Malaga, en Espagne. J'ai fait mes études universitaires à Malaga, licence en Trad. et Interprétation, cependant pour améliorer ma formation en interprétation j'aimerais faire un master ou DESS en interprétation.

Juste après avoir fini mes études universitaires j'ai commencé mon DEA en Traduction et Interprétation à Malaga et la même année (l'année passée) j'ai présenté ma candidature à l'ETI de GE et j'y suis allée pour passer les 7 examens d'admissions des différentes combinaisons mais malheureusement je ne les ai pas tous passés. J'avais choisi comme combinaison linguistique (Espagnol-A / Français-B / Anglais-C / Italien-C). J'ai étudié 10 mois en l'an 2000 aux USA et pendant mes études universitaires en 3eme année, 10 mois en Italie, à la SSLMIT à Forlì.

J'aimerais me présenter à nouveau aux examens mais je ne sais pas comment me préparer pour les réussir ou si je devrais plutôt réduire la combinaison linguistique à deux ou trois langues au lieu de 4 et les rajouter dans le futur.

J'apprécierais des conseils sur ce sujet.

De plus, j'aimerais savoir si vous pourriez m'informer sur les meilleurs masters /DESS qu'il y a en ce moment pour ne pas me tromper et choisir celui qui me donnera la meilleure formation comme interprète de conférence vu que mon rêve serait de travailler en tant que tel. Merci d'avance pour votre réponse.

Mes salutations les plus sincères.

Jessica Subire

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I am getting 32, have plenty of experience for interpretaion. you pros think I am still get the chance to become a simultanous interpretor?

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Leila Rossi Taraniuk


I would appreciate if you could let me know if there is any online Master in CI. Languages A Italian, B English and French. I am Italian but have been living abroad for a long time, I am in Singapore at the moment.

I am really keen on getting an International Certification which could help me improve my skills and guarantee my professionalism.

Thanking you in advance, Kind regards,


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John-Paul Malko


hello, I too would like some further info on entrance exams, I did a degree in langauges but have never had to interpret and so i'm unsure as to how I should go about preparing myself to sit an entrance exam for a masters course. Any advice would be much apreciated.


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I am very interested in applying for the Conference Interpretation program offered by the Graduate Institute of Interpretation and Translation (GIIT) of Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). A year ago, I learned from the Chinese media that GIIC obtained certification from AIIC, and was appraised as among the world's top 15 professional interpretation schools. However, I have not been able to verify this from non-Chinese media sources, including

the AIIC website. Is the above information correct?

Thanks very much for your reply.

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Greetings! I am a practising community interpreter (French and Spanish)) in Australia, accredited at professionnal level by the NATIONAL ACCREDITING AUTHORITY FOR TRANSLATORS AND INTERPRETERS. I am very interested in progressing to conference interpreting and may be able to start a one-year post-graduate full time university course "Master of Conference Interpreting". My concern is that at this stage it is unlikely that Spanish will be an option so I'd only study in the French English language combination. I have been brought up bilingual French - Spanish and so have native proficiency in French and I would say near native in Spanish (only early schooling was carried out in Spain) so I wanted to do an A B1B2 combination. My question is (sorry for the long-winded intro!) will I still be able to get work with Spanish even though it was not part of my course curriculum, what is the non-language specific "theory" part of conference interpreting vs language specific part? Also, I would like to relocate to Europe...will an Australian diploma (Macquarie University) will well regarded and will I not be at a distinct disadvantage vs graduates from Euro schools?

This would represent a huge investment for me so I would like as much of an "indication" as you might be able to give me ( I know you can't comment on a particular university etc...but would appreciate your advice).

Thanks for your time


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C. Marzocchi


Dear Joshua,

Regardless of the employment opportunities that your nationality may or may not open to you, interpreter training institutions normally do not train exclusively for a specific market (in this case the EU institutions) although the language combinations offered and the contents of training may more or less be targeted onto a specific professional situation.

The reason why you had problems in enrolling in La Laguna is that a training institution will have a policy as to the A or B languages of students.

The school in La Laguna, according to our latest survey, requires of students that Spanish is either the A or the B language ((⪼hool_id=103)

So it is still a good idea to study in the country of one of your foreign languages, provided your language combination fits in with the particular institution's requirements.


C. Marzocchi

on behalf of the Aiic Training committee

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Carlo Marzocchi


Dear Eddy, congratulations on the variety of your skills. Formal university training is not required (but we highly recommend it) if you want to practice as a free-lance interpreter; however, most international organizations (like the UN which you mentioned) require of their language staff that they have a university degree.

Under the heading "Asia Pacific" our online Directory of Interpretation Schools ( mentions the Graduate School of Interpretation and Translation of the Shanghai International Studies University, which fulfils all or most of AIIC's training criteria.

There may be other interpreter training institutions in China and I am sure you will be able to find them on the Internet. We recommend, however, that you carefully check the information you obtain from them against the best practices in interpreter training that AIIC has established over the years (

Good luck!

The AIIC Training Committee

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The fact that a particular institution is not mentioned in the aiic directory may be simply due to the fact that the aiic Training committee was not able to obtain a reply to our questionnaire from that institution, and certainly does not mean that it is does not offer good training in translation or interpreting, perhaps also in conference interpreting.

Moreover, from the very beginnings of modern conference interpretation, Aiic members have been closely involved in interpreter training programmes. Drawing on this collective experience, the AIIC Training Committee has established a series of criteria for best practice in interpreter training(; you may want to take into account these best practices when you consider enrolling in a training programme.

Good luck with your training!

The aiic Training Commitee

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Aiic Training Committee


Dear Rebecca,

As a rule the Aiic Training Committee does not comment on an institution’s reputation or quality of teaching. However, we do endeavour to publish as much information as possible on training institutions, on the basis of their replies to a questionnaire, so that prospective students can form their own opinion. In your case, you may find further information on the courses at Shanghai International Studies University in the Aiic Directory of Schools (®ion_id=3&name=ASIA%2DPACIFIC). Unfortunately, we do not have any information concerning the master course in Beijing.

Moreover, from the very beginnings of modern conference interpretation, Aiic members have been closely involved in interpreter training programmes. Drawing on this collective experience, the AIIC Training Committee has established a series of criteria for best practice in interpreter training(, which you may want to take into account when you consider enrolling in a training programme.

Best wishes

Carlo Marzocchi

on behalf of the Aiic Training Commitee

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Aiic Training Commitee


Dear Duc Hai,

Unfortunately at the moment we are not aware of any course in conference interpreting in Vietnam. Please note however that this does not mean that such a course could not take place in the future. The aiic directory of courses is updated every couple of years, so you may want to check again in the future. In the meanwhile, you could perhaps consider enrolling in a programme in the country where your main foreign language is spoken.

Best regards

Carlo Marzocchi

on behalf of the Aiic Training Committee

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Carlo Marzocchi


Dear Alexandra,

We have checked with colleagues in the US before answering your enquiry and unfortunately at the moment we do not know of any other programme specifically targeted at conference interpreting (whereas several programmes specializing in court- or community interpreting exist). Depending on the student's circumstances, we suggest that enrolling in a programme in the country of one's first foreign language is always a viable option.

Best regards

Carlo Marzocchi

on behalf of the Aiic Training Committee

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Maike Hopp



I'm a nineteen-year old girl from Germany and just graduated from high school last summer. As I always knew that I absolutely want to become a conference interpreter I searched for suitable programmes all over Europe and was successful as I'm now at Heriot-Watt university Edinburgh studying Translating and Interpreting for French and Spanisch, taking English as my native tongue and not including German in my degree. I was very happy at the beginning but now I'm not sure anymore that this really is the best way to become a conference interpreter and so I'm really thinking about dropping out...I really don't know what to do and need help desperately. My plan B would be to study some languages in Germany, as many as possible, and then do a Master Degree in Conference Interpreting.. or do you think it would be wise to study a similiar degree as I'm doing now in Germany at least to have my mother tongue included in my degree? Please reply as soon as possible because I'm thinking about returning to Germany after this trimester which ends in 5 weeks...

Thanks in advance,

Maike Hopp

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Nguyen Duc Hai


Dear Sir/Madam,

I'm living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

I've been looking for a worldwide recognized course of interpretation which is conducted in my home country. But I'm still in a desperation.

Through Google searching, I'm directed to the AIIC website for info on CI training. I'm quited interested in this professional training. But when I access the directory of training schools, I'm disappointed that no course is /will be taught in Vietnam.

Grateful that you'll give an advice on who I should contact to be enrolled in the CI training.

Thanks and kind regards,

Duc Hai

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I notice the only program listed in the US is the Masters at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Does anyone know where I can find a list of universities that offer serious programs (a Master's degree or a something that would prepare one to be a conference interpreter) in other parts of the country? I am especially interested in any program that is on the East Coast.

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Eddy Sun


I'm a Chinese student and hope to get admitted in a Postgraduate Programme of Interpreting and Translation or Conference Interpreting in the September of 2007.

I didnt have much official university learning background, received vocational training after middle school and majored in Chinese cooking. But, through self-study, i got Cambridge Business English Certificat 3 in 2001, Grade 8 (Test for English Majors) in 2002, and advanced English/Chinese Consecutive and Simultaneous Interpretating certificate (National Accreditation Exam for Translators and Interpreters, organized by the Chinese Ministry of Education and BeiJing Foreign Studies University) in the last September.

I worked as an English teacher for 2 years in private schools in BeiJing, and have worked as a freelancing interpreter and translator for 2 years. I'd like to make further study in Translation and Interpretating, especially to conduct some research in Interpretating.I have a deep interest in Psychology and have spent some time studying it, I'd like to put the Psychology knowledge in the study of Interpretating.

With a MA, making a bigger contribution to the world by working as a staff interpreter for international organizations ( such as UN ) or teaching in a University can become a reality for me.

Do i have to present a Bachlor Degree? Because i dont have one.

I attended Self-Study-Exam in China (organized by the Chinese Ministry of Education) and got an associate diploma in Economics and Trade English ( it's equivalent to a BA now ). Is it helpful?

I spent one year studying Intellectual Property in the University of International Business and Economics. Is it helpful?

Is the possiblility of getting a full scholarship high? Because I can't afford to study in a foreign country without it.

All suggestions are welcome!

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Chisato Kubo


I am very grateful that such a message board has been established for people like me, wanting to become a conferance interpreter!

I am planning to study at the University of Western Sydney in Australia. There is a masters course in Interpreting and Translation. Although the course is accredited by NAATI(Australias National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters), it`s not on your directory of interpretation schools. Is there a reason for this? Could some one please advise me, if the course is worth attending, to prepare myself to become a conference interpreter? Thank you in advance!

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i think both of them are nice, i am looking for a school as well, for French , English and Chinese.

i would like to talk about it with you.

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Hi Mila!

I'm exactly in your same situation. I've been invited to the entrance test in august-september.

I'm extremely interested in the contents of this test; did you do it already? If so, could you please let me know about it?

Thanks in advance!

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Joshua Williams



J'ai une question à propos du programme d'interprétation à La Laguna en Espagne. En effet, j'ai bien envoyé un formulaire pour que je puisse me présenter pour les examens d'admission de cette école. Quelques semaines plus tard, j'ai lu que l'école compte sur un soutien pédagogique de l'Union européenne, alors je me suis demandé si ce programme ne prépare ces gradués pour travailler que dans l'Union européenne. A cause de ma nationalité, je ne pourrai jamais travailler au sein de l'Union européenne. Je me suis renseigné auprès du secrétariat de La Laguna et je n'ai reçu aucune réponse et ceci après qu'ils m'avaient assuré que j'étais inscrit pour les examens à Madrid en juin. Est-ce une école qui ne prépare que des étudiants qui possèdent l'espagnol comme langue maternelle? Ce n'est pas très clair pour moi car j'ai lu dans un autre forum où Jaclyn Harmer recommandait à un étudiant de poursuivre des études d'interprétation en Espagne afin de bien renforcer sa langue C. J'affiche ces informatoins en espérant recevoir une réponse ici parce que je n'ai évidemment pas eu beaucoup de chance en m'adressant direcetement à l'école (j'ai envoyé environ 3 e-mails). Merci en avance pour votre assitance.

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Good afternoon,

In July I’m invited to take the entrance test for the Conference Interpreting course at Westminster University. I know I’ll be required to make translations into my active language and further there will be a general knowledge and language awareness test, as well as interview and interpreting tests. Does anyone have any experience with such a test? What kind of texts can you expect? Is it allowed to use dictionaries? In which language do they conduct the interview? Do you have any recommendations for me? I’m really looking forward to this program and all helpful suggestions are very welcome :-)

Thank you.


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i am a Chinese student. i am very interested in the oral intepreter field. And i know there are two universities in China------Beijing foreign language University and Shanghai Foreign language University have master degree program in this field. I want to know which university has a better reputation in this area. Thanks a lot!

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Bahar Cotur


Many thanks and congratulations to the Training Committee! I am e-mailing the page to my students right now. Such articles are always of great help to show students that whatever you tell them in class is painstakingly repeated to hundreds of students all around the world and that they are not alone in their concerns and worries.

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Lauren Michaels


Hi there! Thank you so much for your amazing page for students. I am currently in France studying (Canadian student) and I am aiming for a career in interpreting or translation. If there is anything else interesting like this, please send it over! Otherwise I'll continue enjoying the site. Thank you once again,

Lauren Michaels

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Communicate! is pleased to introduce this new version of "Advice to Students", one of the most consulted pages on AIIC.NET with over 100,000 views. A new format and hyperlinks to other articles should help you find the information you need about our field and the possibilities open for pursuing studies. We encourage you to explore our growing website. If you should not find an answer to your question or would simply like to share your views, please leave a comment here."

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