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 [319 KB] 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!
Get in touch with universities
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.
DG Interpretation bursaries
DG Interpretation also provides bursaries for interpreting students. If you are an EU national or a national of a candidate country and you already have a university degree or equivalent, or you are in the final year of your course, you may be eligible to apply for a DG Interpretation bursary.
- Training assistance:
The Speech Repository system is an e-learning tool, which contains a collection of speeches organised by language, difficulty level, type of use, and subject.
Access is granted to:
- Interpreting students through their universities
- Candidates preparing for an inter-institutional test or an open competition
- Professional interpreters
- Other international organisations that train interpreters
They can use these speeches to practise and improve their conference interpretation skills and to prepare to add new languages to their combination. The speeches cover all EU and accession languages, plus Russian.
Users are able to:
- search the Repository for specific content
- download clips
- perform a mock simultaneous interpretation, record it and submit it to a tutor for evaluation.
Interpreter school visits to DG Interpretation:
DG Interpretation welcomes visits from interpreting courses but generally does not organise individual visits.
These visits familiarise student interpreters with the workings of the Institutions served by DG Interpretation and, in particular, the work of interpreters in meetings.
The students sit in on meetings and interpret in dummy booths with their trainers, thereby acquiring a first taste of their future working lives.
In 2010, 61 visits to DG Interpretation were organised for a total of 706 visitors.
If your school would like to apply then please click here
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:
- 80 contract days over a one year 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.
DG Interpretation supports universities by:
- sending experienced interpreters to universities to assist with training;
- sending interpreters to sit on examination boards;
- providing teaching materials, e.g. DVDs, handouts, presentations
DG Interpretation does not provide training courses itself.
If as a university you want to apply for training assistance click here
DG Interpretation provides grants to universities across Europe that bring an additional European dimension to a course. For example, those that offer unusual language combinations or that run cross-border cooperation projects.
If you are a university please see here for more details
- International and National Networks:
For information about interpreting, the skills involved, and how to go about pursuing an interpreting career.