1. I’m 18 and I'd like to be an interpreter, what and where should I study?
A: To work for DG Interpretation as an English interpreter you will need English plus at least two other EU languages. You will need a bachelor's degree in any subject, (it doesn't necessarily have to be in languages), and a postgraduate qualification in conference interpreting.
There are a number of universities across Europe that offer postgraduate courses in conference interpreting. Here is a non-exhaustive list of universities [320 KB] that work regularly with DG Interpretation.
2. Do I have to have an MA or do you accept other types of postgraduate qualifications?
A. In order to be eligible for our test you would need an MA or a PGDip in Conference Interpreting. The DPSI however is not sufficient as a qualification to be accepted at an EU accreditation test.
3. Once I’ve finished my postgraduate course what do I do next?
A: You can apply for our accreditation test online. All the universities will be able to tell you how to go about it, and how to prepare. Once your application has been accepted you’ll be invited to a test as soon as possible. Please see the 2012 test calendar [74 KB] .
4. What if I've spent all those years studying and then there is no work around?
A: So far as we can see demand for interpretation into English is steady and over the next 5 – 10 years 50% of our current interpreters will retire so we will need to replace them.
However, should demand fall, you will still know two or three languages very well, and have excellent communication skills, which are excellent assets in today's global job market.
5. I’ve been interpreting for years but have no formal interpreting qualifications. Can I work for you?
A: Yes, if you have a bachelor's degree, can give proof of your experience as a conference interpreter, and pass our accreditation test.
6. Which languages should I learn and how many?
A: To begin with, any two languages you like and can learn relatively easily. For the moment we can offer you work (in the English booth) with English plus any two EU languages. However, we give priority to candidates with French or German in their language combination.
Throughout your career you will be encouraged to learn and add other languages to your combination but to start with you only need to have two.
7. Do I have to be fluent in all my languages?
A: No – you have to be able to understand them pretty well perfectly, but you don’t have to speak them fluently or be bilingual.
8. I’ve got Russian/Arabic/Japanese/Chinese? Can I work for the EU?
A: We do employ freelancers with non-EU languages , but we can’t offer you enough work to live on. There’s a pretty good private market for them in Europe, though you’re usually expected to work both ways.
You might also find work within the UN organisations.
9. I’m an English-French bilingual? Is that enough to work for the EU?
A: We do have people on the books with just one language working both ways, but we can’t give them very much work. On the other hand, you’ll probably find more work on the private market that way.
10. I’m not English-mother-tongue, but I have very good English. Can I still work for you?
A: You can, but your English has to be at a near native level. If your mother-tongue is another EU language you may want to think about applying for that booth.
11. Does my Irish/American/Jamaican accent matter?
A: As long as you are clear and comprehensible to all the people listening to you (who might be anything from Finnish to Greek) your accent doesn’t matter.
12. How much would I earn as an interpreter?
Your salary as a staff interpreter depends on your level of expertise. Starting interpreters are hired at level AD5, while experienced interpreters can be hired at level AD7. For more details see here.
As a beginner freelancer your net daily rate is about 310€.
As an experienced freelancer your net daily rate is about 400€. You will automatically be admitted to this category as soon as you have worked for 250 days for the European Institutions.
On top of the daily rate freelancers will receive about 100€ (beginners) or 130€ (experienced interpreters) for every day worked, which will be paid into a private pension insurance. They are also covered for health insurance during the time they work for the institutions. For more benefits for freelance interpreters please see here .
13. What are the working conditions like? How long do you work at a time?
A: That depends on your language combination, the meeting and the languages spoken, but generally never more than 30 minutes non-stop or 10 hours in the booth per day with a 90 minute lunch break. The working conditions are laid down in an agreement which covers all interpreters working for DG Interpretation.
14. Would I have to live in Brussels?
A: If you want to work regularly for us – yes! The Commission's Headquarters is in Brussels so it is logical that most meetings take place here. Naturally, deciding where you want to live is up to you but in times of budget restrictions it is difficult for us to hire freelancers who do not live in Brussels. It’s simple economics: It costs us three times as much per day to employ someone from the UK as it does to employ a Brussels resident.
15. Do you have to travel a lot?
A: Yes you do. For some people that’s a plus, for others not, especially if you have small children (in which case you can opt out). However, you do get to see all sorts of places and people you would never normally see. You can even end up on TV!
16. Do I have to have EU nationality to work for you?
A: Not as a freelancer – you can have any nationality you like. To be a staff interpreter, however, you do have to be an EU national.
17. How will I survive as a freelancer who's just started?
A: We have a system to make sure that beginners get a certain amount of work despite their inexperience, as we know that it is tough starting out!
Many people also work as translators to begin with.
Jobs jobs jobs:
18. I don’t want to work for the EU, particularly, and I don’t want to live in Brussels? Are there other jobs around in the UK?
A: There is a lot of interpreting work in Public Service Interpreting (PSI) – courts, hospitals, police, social services, etc. Any language can be useful – even French and Spanish, because of Latin America and French-speaking Africa - but you need to be able to work both ways.
There is also work for business – liaison interpreting or as an in-house translator/interpreter. German companies in particular are very keen to find English speakers with good German.
19. How about working for the UN? How do I go about that?
A: We suggest you look at their website. They are also facing a staff shortage – not just for interpreters, but also translators, minute-writers and other linguistic staff.
20. How do I get to be a staff interpreter with the EU?
A: usually people start as freelancers and then, once they’ve got a bit of experience, they take one of the open competitions, which are organised every four years or so by EPSO.
21. Is it better to be a freelancer or be on the staff?
A: That depends on your personal situation, your preferences and your character. Freelancers have more freedom as they are not bound to one institution or employer. As a staff member you are not only an interpreter but also on the staff of a big organisation with job security, improved life-long learning opportunities and possibilities for mobility. However, the work they do is the same.