Becoming an interpreter
Find out what it takes to become a conference interpreter, whether it is right for you, and where to study in Asia-Pacific and beyond.
Is conference interpreting the right profession for me?
Conference interpreters transmit spoken text from one language to another. They work for international organizations, national governments and ministries, the corporate and financial sectors, associations, etc.
Most conference interpreters are self-employed freelancers. They have to be very flexible in terms of when and where they work. Their working hours can be irregular and unpredictable, and some interpreters travel a great deal. They are required to show maximum discipline and focus while constantly adapting to changing subject matters and working environments.
As freelance conference interpreters generally work for many different clients, they have to be able to cover a broad range of subjects and often need to read up on complex subject matters.
Staff interpreters are employed by a national organization such as a ministry or by an international organization. They have a regular salary, but usually have to show the same flexibility as their freelance colleagues about when and where they work.
A certain skill set is of benefit when becoming a professional interpreter:
- A good all-round level of education
- Quick to grasp new ideas
- An ability to maintain high levels of concentration
- Powers of analysis and synthesis
- A good memory
- Flexibility and willingness to travel
- Stamina and strong nerves
- Empathy, meaning the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes regardless of language or cultural barriers
Interpreters undergo specialized postgraduate training before starting out. They learn the core skills required to work as a conference interpreter:
- Interpreting techniques (simultaneous and consecutive interpreting in different settings)
- What international organisations do and how they work
- Preparing meetings, knowledge and terminology management
- Public speaking skills and voice training
- Translation theory and the latest research
Interpreting schools in Asia-Pacific
There are nine interpreting schools in Asia-Pacific that offer a master’s degree in conference interpretation and that have applied for and met AIIC’s basic recommended best practice criteria.
- Shanghai International Studies University – Shanghai
- Ewha Womens University – Seoul
- Fu Jen Catholic University – Taipei
- National Taiwan Normal University – Taipei
- National Taiwan University – Taipei
- Chulalongkorn University – Bangkok
To find other programmes outside Asia-Pacific, the complete AIIC Interpreting Schools & Programmes Directory can be consulted here. Head over to our FAQ to learn more about how conference interpreting works, or test your knowledge of the interpreter’s lingo with this interpreting-themed crossword puzzle!