I want to become a conference interpreter
There are many ways to become a conference interpreter. However, there are three main features that unite all interpreters:
- A passion for languages
- An excellent command of their mother tongues
- Their ability to communicate
Conference interpreting is a specialist skill that must be learnt so all aspiring interpreters must obtain a postgraduate qualification in conference interpreting or gain significant professional experience in this field in order to pursue this career.
You need to be able to understand foreign languages in order to become an interpreter, but it is a myth that you have to be bilingual.
Your most important language as an interpreter is your mother tongue. You have to be able to express yourself clearly and eloquently in your native language when interpreting.
How can I study conference interpreting?
Most conference interpreting courses are at a postgraduate level so you will need to have a bachelor's degree in order to enrol. This degree does not have to be in languages.
Where can I study conference interpreting?
Postgraduate degrees in translation and conference interpreting are offered by a number of European universities. These cover a range of language combinations and can be followed both full-time and part-time.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of universities [2 MB] that work regularly with DG Interpretation.
What help is available?
Studying at postgraduate level can sometimes be very expensive and is always a labour-intensive experience but don't panic, as help is at hand for both interpreting students and universities!
Training assistance, virtual tools, grants and bursaries
The European Commission cooperates closely with universities which provide conference interpreting training to ensure high level professional standards. Although the Commission does not itself organise training courses in interpretation, we provide both on-site and remote assistance by experienced trainers, a number of virtual training tools as well as grants to universities and bursaries for students. Read more here.
Individual universities often provide funding for interpreting students but do not publicise their bursaries before you apply. Contact them directly for more information and to see what help is available.
The Newcomers scheme is a new initiative designed to help interpreters at the beginning of their career to overcome the initial hurdles of establishing themselves in the profession and within the EU Institutions.
This scheme offers recently accredited freelancers:
- 100 contract days over an eighteen month period
- mentoring/coaching by experienced colleagues
- dummy booth practice
- networking opportunities with other newcomers
This initiative provides young interpreters with a solid grounding and an insight into what it is like to be working for a European Institution.
Candidates for this scheme are selected on the basis of the needs of the service and are only eligible if they passed the accreditation test during the previous 12 months and live permanently in Brussels.
An Integration Programme is a +/- 4-week intensive training course offered to candidate freelance interpreters who narrowly fail the freelance accreditation test, or to interpreters who have just passed their final interpreting exams, in order to help them pass the accreditation test at the end of the programme.
These courses are organised for "priority languages", which have a shortage of interpreters, and are determined on an annual basis.
International and National Networks
For more information about interpreting, the skills involved, and how to go about pursuing an interpreting career, check the websites of some international and national networks.
- The Netherlands: Netherlands Society of Interpreters and Translators
- USA: InterpretAmerica
If you want your organisation to be included in this list, please contact us: