"Interpreter" or "conference interpreter" – what is the difference?

People with headphones listening to simultaneous interpreter

Interpretation is not a regulated profession. What this means is that anyone can call themselves an interpreter. Most interpreters working for the police, the immigration services, the judiciary and in healthcare (“community interpreters”) have only undergone a short training of a few months or even weeks. They often work with languages for which no interpretation degrees are available. Their work mainly involves conversation settings (such as police officers interviewing a witness) and most of them have little or no experience with simultaneous interpretation. Moreover, these intepreters usually work exclusively at the national level.

Conference interpreters, on the other hand, usually have an academic background. Most of them have a university degree in interpretation (in the Dutch-speaking region, this kind of degree is only available in Belgium). They work at international organizations such as the UN and the EU, at international conferences, for national governments and the diplomatic service as well as for the business sector. An academic background and an excellent level of general knowledge are indispensable tools for their job. They keep abreast of developments in politics, law and technology and usually work in an international context. Nowadays, the majority of assignments involve simultaneous interpretation. The picture above shows two Congrestolken members working simultaneously from a booth during an international meeting.

Congrestolken interpreters work for the European institutions in Brussels, Strasbourg, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, for UN institutions in the Netherlands (such as the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice in The Hague), for the central government and for clients from the global business community. All members of Congrestolken are also members of AIIC, the international professional association of conference interpreters, guaranteeing superior quality and the strictest professional standards.

Find out more about our members here.

Learn more about AIIC here.

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