Projet Nouveau Multilinguisme


L’Assemblée de Dakar de janvier 2000 a souhaité que l’AIIC s’exprime sur l’évolution de notre profession en Europe, qui s’apprête à vivre un élargissement historique, et dans la Région Asie-Pacifique où la multiplication des réunions entraîne l’utilisation croissante d’une langue pilote.

Le Conseil de Dakar a chargé Michel Lesseigne de coordonner un projet intitulé Nouveau Multilinguisme qui a présenté aux Conseils de Genève, d’Amsterdam, de Vienne et de Rome des rapports d’avancement de ses travaux.

A Vienne, en étroite collaboration avec le SMP, le Conseil a pu entendre de vive voix les préoccupations des collègues européens membres et non-membres. Le Bulletin de septembre 2001 s’est largement fait l’écho de cette manifestation.

A Rome, en janvier 2002, le Conseil s’est penché sur la situation de la Région Asie- Pacifique et sur le volet interne du projet. Le Conseil a constaté combien les situations vécues par des interprètes travaillant dans des régions très éloignées étaient similaires, ce qui démontre une fois de plus le caractère universel de notre Association. Les situations décrites dans le présent rapport montrent la nécessité de prévoir pendant longtemps encore des dérogations aux conditions d’admission.

Le Conseil a approuvé le principe de la déclaration sur le multilinguisme.

Volet externe

I – The Situation in Asia

In some ways the situation in Asia is comparable to that in Europe and indeed the rest of the world. For example, there is a differentiation between national markets for interpreting (most often bilingual) and an international market (often multilingual and at times with no use of the national language – or with the national language interpreters being contracted by a separate party, such as the government). There are emerging economies where the market for interpretation services has been on the rise (Korea and China, and to a certain extent Thailand). In Japan, the interpreting market has been strong for some time and the profession enjoys a certain visibility that it lacks elsewhere.

On the other hand, Asia has some traits that may distinguish it, at least in degree. English is usually used as a common language for communication among countries (for example, within ASEAN) and among people who do not speak each other’s first language. Regional varieties of English are now cited with even a certain relish (Singlish being a recent example). In a sense, one may get a feeling that since English “belongs” to nobody, it can be used by all with no great disadvantage for anyone (at least in SE Asia).

The national markets we want to look at here are Japan, Korea and China. They share many similarities:

  • They are strongly “bilingual” markets;
  • English is the most used “other” language for conferences;
  • There are almost no non-native interpreters who master the national language:
  • Very few interpreters have a third language;
  • Multilingual conferences are generally thought of as being somehow different, at least by many in the field;
  • Training takes a bilingual approach.

With this backdrop in place, we can take a short look at each of the three countries.


  1. After English, French is the most used European language. There is some use of other Asian languages, but English still represents the bulk of the conference interpretation work.

  2. Most language classifications are A/B. The standard for a B classification is often lower than in Western Europe, but the best interpreters have excellent command. Anything less than a deemed B for a second language would not be seen as marketable.

  3. The Japanese market pays interpreters very well and good interpreters are probably among the busiest in the world. A seniority system is a fact of life, with “senior” interpreters demanding both respect and higher fees than “less senior” or “junior” interpreters.

  4. Teams of three interpreters are very common if not an absolute rule for bilingual EN/JP work.

  5. When more than one European language is involved, it is fairly common for the PCO to seek out native professional interpreters.

  6. Intermediaries are the dominant force on the Japanese market. Agencies and PCOs are almost always involved in the contracting of interpreters. Some even have their own training programs. It is also known that some intermediaries have a stable of interpreters that handle most of their work. Although powerful, Japanese intermediaries rarely push prices substantially down, at least for conference interpreting.

  7. As mentioned in item 5, some agencies have long run training programs. University-level training of interpreters has not really taken off in Japan. A recent case of an interested student asking a Japanese colleague about training programs: he was recommended the University of Queensland in Australia! Only Daito Bunka University, a private university in Tokyo, is known to offer a graduate course in conference interpretation which is run by an AIIC member. But it has very few students and may close down its interpretation program.

  8. Technical equipment is usually acceptable although perhaps not as good as one would expect from such a technologically advanced country. Three-person booths are fairly common, but not always used.

  9. AIIC is weak in Japan – only 9 members currently in a country with a large body of professionals. The reason most often heard is that AIIC just does not offer anything to interpreters (i.e. more work). Another factor may be that Japanese is not an official language in any major international organisation. The dominance of intermediaries and group loyalties may also play a role. All AIIC members in Japan are senior interpreters and most of the new younger interpreters rarely work with them. Our Japanese members, with rare exceptions, make no effort to enlist new members or even to sponsor those who would like to become members.


  1. English is by far the most used foreign language, representing around 90% of conference work. Japanese and French follow.

  2. Again virtually all language classifications are A/B. See No. 7 for more info.

  3. Rates in Korea are good and there is a lot of work for professional interpreters.

  4. For bilingual conferences it is most common to have teams of two interpreters. Most of the work tends to be into Korean from English.

  5. For multilingual conferences teams are usually, but not always, organised with pure booths. It occasionally happens that smaller teams are organised using relay through Korean.

  6. Intermediaries are dominant players and “clients” seem to prefer using a PCO, agency or a similar “business.” Intermediates charge commissions and often have their own “group” of interpreters. It is common for consultant interpreters, including some AIIC members, to charge other interpreters a commission on their teams.

  7. Unlike Japan, university Masters-level courses have taken off in Korea and there are now two reputable programs. Hankuk University, the older of the two, is on AIIC’s list of schools with two stars. The other is Ewha Womans University, also in Seoul. (In addition, there are said to be five universities in the provinces also offering interpretation courses). Teachers tend to be practicing professionals, in both cases among the most respected in the country. They assign a language classification upon graduation. The second language is virtually automatically considered a B.

  8. The technical side is a mixed bag. Interpreters report that sound generally tends to be acceptable, but that booths are often uncomfortable (small) and have no ventilation. Three-person booths are available, but it would seem there are not enough of them and that more advance notice is needed to reserve them.

  9. AIIC has had more success in Korea than in Japan – 7 members currently in what is a smaller and newer market. As in Japan, it is the status of AIIC member that makes joining attractive. It may be that interpreters have seen some competitive advantage in being associated to an international body.


A comprehensive article by Jiang Hong and Andrew Dawrant on “Conference Interpreting in Mainland China” was published in the July/August 2001 issue of Communicate!.

  1. English is again the most used conference language in combination with Chinese. French probably follows.

  2. Most language classifications are A/B for the same reasons cited previously.

  3. The freelance market is relatively new in China (see above-mentioned article). By national standards, rates are extremely good and the market would seem to be expanding.

  4. For bilingual conferences either 2 or 3 interpreters are used. Chinese being an official UN language, many seasoned professionals are used to the three-person system for a booth offering retour. In the private market, AIIC members generally manage to get three, but the use of only two interpreters is not uncommon in the non-AIIC market.

  5. Multilingual conferences are usually organised with bilingual booths using relay through Chinese. There are virtually no professional interpreters with A in languages other than Chinese residing in China, and the cost of bringing in professionals to handle European languages is probably a main reason for doing without them.

  6. Intermediaries are very active in the Chinese market, but the landscape is very different than in other countries. Private agencies and language schools are now offering interpretation among their services, but government agencies are often the dominant force. As Jiang Hong and Andrew Dawrant point out in their Communicate! article, “Some institutions offer the services of their staff interpreters on the private market, and others have even spun off their interpretation functions to become income-generating units. In other cases, staff members take paid outside assignments with the permission of their work unit, and pay out of their fees a commission to their institution, part of which may even be distributed among their colleagues who worked in-house while they were working outside.” Even for UN meetings, it is common for a government agency to contract the Chinese interpreters and charge a rather hefty commission. In such cases, the interpreter is virtually seen as a temporary employee of the Chinese government agency in question. Also, some government agencies have spun off their language services departments into “private companies” actively seeking outside work to generate income.

  7. There are university training programs in China – more every day. The postgraduate course at Beijing Foreign Studies University was originally established in conjunction with the UN. The University of International Business and Economics (Beijing) recently opened a course with some collaboration from the EU. Programs exist or are being planned in other major cities. It is not common to assign a language classification upon graduation. Graduates are automatically assumed to be Chinese A/English B for the same reasons as in Japan and Korea.

  8. The technical side still leaves much to be desired. Sound equipment from recognised international manufacturers is common, but standard booths are often absent.

  9. Considering the recent advent of the freelance market in China, AIIC has grown rapidly – currently some 10 members. Work for the UN has meant that professional interpreters come into contact with AIIC members and indeed have a stake in it as the association negotiates a collective agreement with the UN. Also, belonging to AIIC may offer a competitive advantage.
  1. a. Despite growth in demand and in the availability of training, access to the profession for new interpreters is relatively difficult. Almost all newly minted interpreters join the government and have limited opportunities to work as conference interpreters. It is likely that only a few will go fully freelance at some point and remain active in the profession long-term. At the same time, it seems that untrained and under-qualified interpreters are entering the rapidly expanding low-scale private market.

AIIC applications and sponsorship

For the three languages treated here, finding sponsors has become less of a problem than in the past. That does not mean, however, that waivers should be discounted or disallowed. In some cases, it is still difficult to find colleagues who have been members for five years. In a large market with many interpreters (Japan), some very experienced interpreters may not commonly end up working with local AIIC members. In China, a very large country, we are already getting enquiries from interpreters who do not live in Beijing and have very few possibilities of working with AIIC members (all of whom live in Beijing). And as elsewhere in the world, there are sometimes local rivalries and group loyalties that make it difficult for applicants to find sponsors or for members to sign for otherwise reputable colleagues. As I have mentioned, being a member may provide a competitive advantage – an advantage that some members may think will disappear if too many are let in! That is a reality AIIC faces everywhere.

Contact with AIIC members who work in multilingual conferences often means that a signature or two can be obtained from a person who does not speak the national language but is willing to vouch for someone on the basis of listening to and/or working from her/his relay. Sometimes a signature can be obtained from a colleague who only recently joined AIIC. In Korea and China, reputable training programs (some with AIIC members on the faculty) exist and can serve as a reference. Considering the overall situation, the use of these and other forms of waivers should not be disallowed or limited for some time to come.

In the coming years we may also see interest in membership growing in other countries (i.e. Thailand, where there is already a small body of good professionals). In these cases, an even broader use of waivers will be needed.

II - La situation en Europe

Les recommandations ci-dessous ont été adoptées par le Conseil de Vienne en juillet 2001 :

  1. Le réseau des points de contact (voir tableau ci-dessous) a été confirmé.
  2. L'AIIC devra maintenant déterminer, en comparant ses listes avec celles des Institutions européennes, le nombre d'interprètes des PECOs susceptibles de faire l'objet d'une éventuelle procédure d'admission dérogatoire.
  3. Un travail de fond doit être accompli par l'AIIC, notamment au niveau des régions, afin de préparer les membres à la pratique d'une attitude nouvelle de dialogue, sans arrogance, sans condescendance, avec les collègues interprètes de conférence non membres.
  4. Les régions de l'AIIC pourraient décider d'être porte-parole de collègues non représentés au Conseil.

Le Conseil de Rome a pris note du rapport de Gisela Siebourg relatif à la recommandation N° 2. Cette dernière a constaté, dans ses contacts avec les chefs-interprètes des Institutions européennes, que ceux-ci ont unanimement déclaré qu'en raison de la protection des données, il leur était impossible de communiquer des listes à des tiers.

S'agissant de la recommandation N° 4, le Conseil de Rome a approuvé le dispositif suivant :

Régions volontaires pour représenter les membres et futurs membres de la non-région

L’objet de cette démarche est le suivant : la région porte-parole sera en quelque sorte l’interprète auprès du Conseil des collègues membres ayant leur adresse professionnelle dans les pays concernés ET des collègues qui constitueront le noyau des futurs membres.

Le Projet NML a été chargé d’assurer la coordination de la mise en œuvre de cette recommandation.

Les chiffres figurant au tableau sont ceux de juillet 2004.

PECO et pays candidats

Nombre de


Région porte – parole

Points de contact du Projet NML




Magdalena Skoc 
Witold Skowronski




Eva Halasz
Peter Koczoh

République tchèque


R.U. et Irlande

Ivana Cenkova
Dana Langerova

Slovaquie Irlande

Frantisek Michalicka 



R. Nordique

Irina Petrova
Ülle Leis




Ieva Zauberga



R. Nordique

Rimas Remeika




Mariola Zdravic





















Autres pays hors région


Croatie, Bosnie, Serbie, Macédoine


Pays -Bas






Fédération russe














République de Corée




Volet Interne

Le Conseil d'Amsterdam a confié au Projet Nouveau Multilinguisme (NML) le soin d'examiner, entre autres, la question du retour dans les termes suivants : "AIIC policy on classification of B languages " Cette question ne peut pas être entièrement traitée séparément d'un autre point du mandat du Projet NML,à savoir : "AIIC policy on admission of interpreters from ECE countries (or interpreters with only 2 languages : one A and one B".

Le Conseil de Vienne a souhaité examiner cette partie du mandat en liaison avec les propositions du Projet Critères objectifs d'admission.

Indépendamment des propositions du Projet COA, le Projet NML souhaite interroger le Conseil sur les points précis suivants : faut-il prévoir pour le travail vers la langue B (et à fortiori pour une deuxième langue A) l'exigence d'une expérience différente et supplémentaire par rapport à l'expérience exigée pour le travail vers la langue A?

La réponse du Conseil est négative. Le Conseil, en liaison avec une question posée par la Région Portugal a confié à E.Goossens, S.Camilo, A.Lebreton, D. Hespel et M. Lesseigne le mandat suivant :

"to make proposals on how to examine applications for B language in order to ensure that admissions criteria are applied consistently, and to reflect on definition of active languages".

Normes professionnelles 

Le Conseil d'Amsterdam a confié au Projet Nouveau Multilinguisme (NML) le soin d'examiner, entre autres, la question de la composition des équipes d'interprètes dans des réunions aux régimes linguistiques étendus dans les termes suivants : 

"AIIC policy on interpretation at meetings with more than 10 languages ". Cette question ne peut être dissociée d'un autre point du mandat du Projet NML, à savoir : "policy on work at meetings with more than two languages taken from relay".

Cette dernière question couvre également l'utilisation, de plus en plus fréquente, d'une langue dite pilote.

Le Conseil de Vienne a témoigné d'un certain attachement au tableau des effectifs que l'Assemblée de Dakar a décidé de maintenir.

Le Projet NML a demandé l'orientation du Conseil sur les points suivants :

  • Faut-il concevoir un tableau d'effectifs pour les régimes linguistiques étendus ou, au contraire, s'en tenir à des principes généraux?

    Le Conseil souhaite s’en tenir à des principes généraux.

  • Faut-il maintenir le tableau actuel des effectifs en le faisant suivre d'un paragraphe énonçant les principes qui régissent la composition des équipes travaillant dans des régimes linguistiques étendus?

    La réponse du Conseil est affirmative.

  • Dans l'affirmative, ces principes doivent-ils être explicites quant à l'ordre des priorités à suivre : traduction directe, relais, et, si on ne peut l'éviter, recours à l'interprétation bidirectionnelle?

    La réponse du Conseil est affirmative.

  • Ces principes doivent-ils prohiber le double relais?

    La réponse du Conseil est affirmative.

  • Doivent-ils préciser le nombre minimal de pivots et le nombre minimal d'effectifs dans les cabines travaillant en mode bidirectionnel?

    La réponse du Conseil est affirmative : 2 pivots au minimum et 3 interprètes dans les cabines travaillant en mode bidirectionnel.

  • Faut-il prévoir des dérogations pour les régimes linguistiques très asymétriques (par exemple 20 langues vers 3)?

    La réponse du Conseil est négative.

1. dont 8 à Hong Kong et 2 à Taiwan

Recommended citation format:
Luigi LUCCARELLI,Michel LESSEIGNE. "Projet Nouveau Multilinguisme". February 27, 2002. Accessed September 23, 2019. <>.

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