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Hello everybody,

I want to become a successful interpreter. I am Arab and speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, and a bit Italian and French. I have some experience in translation and am planing to enhance it.

Now I have some questions:

-Which is better for interpretation market:having a good certificate in the field, like ATA's, for example, or having a master in interpretation from a good university? Would it be a good idea trying to have both so that they differentiate me or make me earn more sooner or later?

By the way, I am not restricted to the languages I know. I mean, I am open to learning another language or enhancing the ones I am not good in if that will allow me to earn a good certificate or master in an affordable place.

I'm waiting for your advice and/or suggestions.

Thank you. :) :)

asked 21 Nov '16, 09:55

Mariam%20Moaz's gravatar image

Mariam Moaz

Hello Mariam,

You don't tell us which country you live in or where you would like to work. Europe and the US are two very different kettles of fish. I presume you live in the US already, as you mention the ATA certification. That actually exists only for translation; the qualification that allows you to be an active member of the ATA as an interpreter only is not a test, and certifies only that you have worked for a certain amount of time and have a certain amount of experience. It is useful to have even the ATA translation certificate in the US, though, as many private clients don't know the difference between an interpreter or a translator, or the difference between liaison, court or conference interpreting.

In the US, these 3 markets can be interchangeable. When I lived there, I worked on the private and government markets as a conference interpreter, as a court and legal interpreter for the DC and Federal District courts, and as a liaison interpreter. I was required to pass a test to work in the government and in court, but not for the private market, though my degree helped to differentiate me. In government, community and court markets, the pay is contractual; in other words, you cannot negotiate, you take it or leave it. In private market conference, liaison, etc., you may negotiate your own fees, and they can move from very low to very high, depending on the job and your abilities as a negotiator.

In Europe, the markets are much more separate. Community interpreting is one market, court interpreting another, private market liaison another, and private market conference yet another. It is much more rare for an interpreter to mix these markets up. They tend to stick to what they do best, and add translation or other work on the side if interpreting isn't paying the bills.

You should do your market research for where you want to live and see what languages are needed there. Remember that the skills are difficult to learn - not everyone can become an interpreter even when they know different languages. This becomes even more true as you aim for higher levels - so conference interpreting requires the most training and the highest abilities, liaison requires a bit less book knowledge but more protocol understanding, court requires a different skill set and vocabulary, etc. Since the skills are difficult to learn, you should concentrate on just one or two foreign languages. Moreover, the different markets require different language combinations, so the private market tends to want an interpreter working back and forth between their native and one foreign language, where international organizations will want you to be able to work out of two languages into your native language (and if you are a native Arabic speaker, then from Arabic into either English or French).

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answered 23 Nov '16, 13:17

JuliaP's gravatar image



Hello Julia!

Thank you so much for your detailed answer. I appreciate it.

Actually, I live in Egypt -unfortunately haha-, but I want to immigrate to -possibly- Germany, Australia or Nordic countries. I'm still researching.

You said your degree helped you. Is it an MA in conference interpretation?

You're right. I must do research about markets in the possible destinations, the language combinations in demand in each market etc

But I have a question: Do conference interpreters usually interpret into their active foreign languages too?

(23 Nov '16, 17:41) Mariam Moaz

Yes, my degree is an MA in Conference Interpretation. At the time, there were few of us with a degree in my language combination, so it helped me to stand out. It also gave me the credibility to get higher level jobs much sooner than colleagues who didn't have the degree.

And yes, conference interpreters do indeed work into their B languages (non-native active language), on the private market and in some international organizations. And if you have Arabic as your A language (mother tongue), then you will always interpret into either a French or English B, with English I think being more prevalent.

(23 Nov '16, 17:55) JuliaP

Thank you so much for your valuable answer. I'm really thankful.

Why do you think that if Arabic is my native language, I will interpret into English or French? :D :D Is that how the actual market is? :) I mean, what if I spoke German, for example, instead? I'm just curious. Hope I'm not annoying you. :)

(24 Nov '16, 15:18) Mariam Moaz

Hi Mariam,

this is part of your market research. In the UN system with Arabic, you are required to interpret into English or French. Arabic and Chinese are the only two languages that are required to do so; all the other UN languages are required to work only into their native language from two of the other 4.

If you work in other markets than the UN or other international organizations, you could choose what languages you want to work into. To give you an example with German on the private market, you would also have to work into a foreign language, and depending on which one you choose your market will be larger or smaller. For example, if you chose German<>Thai, you would have much less work than German<>English.

(24 Nov '16, 15:25) JuliaP

Hello Julia!

Thank you so much. Very valuable info. I appreciate it. I didn't know I could find such info on the internet. I must research more.

Thanks again. :)

(25 Nov '16, 16:36) Mariam Moaz

A university course teaches you a skill. A certificate recognizes that you have a skill.

Attending a university programme sounds like the most direct way to acquiring the skill set that will be tested in a certification process.

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answered 21 Nov '16, 16:34

G%C3%A1sp%C3%A1r's gravatar image

Gáspár ♦

edited 21 Nov '16, 16:50

Thank you so much! I appreciate your help. :)

(22 Nov '16, 15:16) Mariam Moaz

A full-time 1 or 2 year post-graduate MA in conference interpreting is the best way to get into conference interpreting. You can find schools in your region / with your languages here in the AIIC Schools Directory

(You might need to specify what type of interpreting you had in mind, where you want to work/live and how you define "successful" if you want more specific answers!)

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answered 22 Nov '16, 03:55

Andy's gravatar image



Thank you so much, Andy. I appreciate your answer. That is the kind of information I am looking for. Thanks. :)

(22 Nov '16, 14:26) Mariam Moaz

I like the idea of liaison interpreting more, but it sounds a bad choice as I read here. I read it's not well-paid, is it? Do conference interpreters do some liaison work too? Does liaison interpretation usually pay "peanuts"? Can one work in both types of interpretation? Sorry for talking a lot. hehe

(22 Nov '16, 18:21) Mariam Moaz

Hi Miriam, generally conference interpreting pays more than other types of interpreting and it is correspondingly harder to get into. AIIC's statistics report gives some average earnings (and a lot of other interesting info) here under the heading "annual gross income" on this page...'ll also find there information about how many days interpreters worked for those amounts. (Mostly less than 100). I don't know of conference interpreters who do "liaison" but I'm sure some do. Some conference interpreting (visits for example) is very similar to liaison (but the pay is better)!

(23 Nov '16, 12:30) Andy

Thank you so much, Andy, for your help. I will do some research and might have some questions later on what you mentioned. :D :) Thanks!

(23 Nov '16, 18:02) Mariam Moaz

I'm sorry for haven't asked that before. When you say "conference interpreting", do you refer to its all cases (I mean, the interpretation done for both international organizations and private clients)? So, an MA in conference interpreting is the best way to get into that, right? By "visits", did you refer to escort interpreting? Could you, please, mention other examples of similar kinds of interpretation that conference interpreting may involve (like the visits one)? :) I really appreciate your help. :)

(24 Nov '16, 17:47) Mariam Moaz

Yes, conference interpreting covers institutions and private clients. It's generally simultaneous in booths but also includes consecutive. And yes, the MA in CI is the best way in. In practice interpreters hired as conference interpreters will also interpret occasionally at dinners or on visits (eg. to an industrial site) using portable simultaneous equipment (bidules) or chuchotage (whispering). And it's this latter case where there is an overlap with liaison. Simultaneous chuchotage or sentence by sentence consecutive for 1 or 2 listeners is the same format as liaison interpreting. The difference will be whether you were recruited as a conference interpreter or not. A conference interpreter would get paid more and chuchotage and sentence by sentence consec would be an exception. For a liaison interpreter they would be standard (whereas they might never work in a booth).

(28 Nov '16, 02:25) Andy

Nb... This is an article about the difference, although it doesn't mention the issues of price or standard

(28 Nov '16, 02:27) Andy

Thank you so much, Andy, for taking the time to answer my question. I'm really grateful. :)

(28 Nov '16, 16:55) Mariam Moaz
showing 5 of 8 show 3 more comments

If you are a Coptic Christian and looking to emigrate to a country with more freedoms, the USA has been particularly interested in welcoming Coptic Christians and filling them into various interpreter type jobs. Under Trump, I would expect this trend to be even more pronounced.

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answered 01 Dec '16, 11:13

Adrian%20Lee%20Dunbar's gravatar image

Adrian Lee D...


No, I'm not.

Thank you anyway. :)

(01 Dec '16, 14:05) Mariam Moaz
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question asked: 21 Nov '16, 09:55

question was seen: 557 times

last updated: 01 Dec '16, 14:05 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

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