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Hello Everyone, I would like to train as a conference interpreter in the UK. My languages are Italian A, English B and French C. From the research I have done, I see that here I could only train for Italian A and English B, no University offers training from Italian into French here. I can only train and work in the UK. Does anyone know if it is possible to make a living with this language combination? Is anyone working in the UK private market with Italian A and English B and making a living out of it? Many thanks in advance!

asked 19 Dec '16, 07:18

Chirez's gravatar image


Hi Chirez, I am a conference interpreter and interpreting trainer with your language combination (plus a few more C languages), so I hope I can answer some of your questions.

First of all, you are right in saying that these days an Italian A can only train with English B in the UK. In the past, courses offered the possibility to train with an ACC combination - Westminster and Leeds being the first two that come to mind. In Leeds (where I teach) the decision to switch to AB only was taken because it was impossible to source interpreting trainer with virtually ALL language combinations. Most UK universities build on their competitive position in an English-speaking country to promote English enhancement courses. In that sense, offering English as a retour makes perfect sense. Your options as an Italian A would be fairly limited, with Leeds and London Met being the only two universities you can apply to. There are of course other interpreting courses out there, but I would invite you to check the AIIC Schools Directory before you make up your mind.

Secondly, I am slightly puzzled by you saying you can only train and work in the UK. Although this may be related to your specific situation, a degree from a UK university would be recognised worldwide.

Now, on to some facts.

There are plenty of Italian A interpreters out there, both in the UK and elsewhere. The sheer amount of postgraduate (and sometimes undergraduate) interpreting courses across Europe doesn't help, and the market has changed dramatically since those were established. Competition is fierce and newcomers find it very hard to break into the market. The majority of CI assignments in the UK tend to be in London, for obvious reasons. However, London is also prohibitively expensive and I would not recommend moving there without a regular income, at least to start with - unless you already live there!

The amount of CI assignments has also dramatically decreased over the last few years. This is due to a variety of reasons, including the 2008 economic crisis and the annoying habit Italians have to think they can understand/speak English (when they actually can't, see Matteo Renzi's performances in public). The UK market is highly deregulated, which means interpreting agencies often offer peanuts even when they expect you to work for decent clients. Some 'colleagues' - if you can call them that - undermine the market, too. You will find interpreters working for £200 a day in London (remember you'll have to pay taxes on that, too), which is an insult to the profession. That said, there are some older colleagues who managed to carve themselves a decent niche and get regular assignments, sometimes working both in the UK and in Italy.

The market for PSI (public service interpreting, i.e. working for the police, GPs, etc.) is present nation-wide and allows recent graduates to get some experience under their belt while they find their feet. However, please note that things have also drastically changed. Due to the MoJ's recent outsourcing fiascos, what was once a regulated and fairly respected field has now turned into a farce. Agencies sometimes pay next to nothing and hire unqualified linguists to work in court, for instance.

Contrary to what some UK universities do when speaking to possible recruits, I want to be perfectly honest with you. There are very few prospects for an Italian A conference interpreter in the UK, especially if you expect agencies and colleagues to welcome you with open arms. I would also argue that your language combination is too common to aim higher - the EU now requires 3 x C languages (including one from the latest accession) to even consider your profile.

However, there is a silver lining. If you want to train as a conference interpreter, please do it. You will learn skills you can use in other contexts (the so called "transferrable skills") and possibly discover other career paths you had not even considered along the way. If you want/have to stay in the UK, you could start by working as a Project Manager (PM) or a translation trainee in one of the many agencies here. This will give you invaluable insights into the translation and interpreting market, and possibly help you to reach a more informed decision. Or you could end up working in a different capacity: Personal Assistants, In-House Translators, PR, etc. are all careers where you can put your skills to good use.

I hope this answers some of your questions. Good luck!


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answered 19 Dec '16, 09:48

Andre's gravatar image


Hello Andre, thank you very much for such an informative and honest answer. I will certainly take it into account when I decide whether to train. I have to stay in the UK because of my personal circumstances, and I did suspect that the situation for interpreters with Italian A in the UK was as you said, unfortunately. I also already have an MA in translation from a university in the UK so I could go into one of the related professions, but I always wanted to be a conference interpreter, which is why I am thinking about training. At least now I know what the risks are if I do go ahead and follow my dream! Grazie ancora, Chiara

(20 Dec '16, 06:06) Chirez

The conference interpreting market in the UK is rather small.

The UK has 125 AIIC members, Germany has 303, France has 394.

Whether you can make a living by just doing CI with IT<>EN, I wouldn't know. But hopefully, someone with first hand experience will be able to answer your question shortly. ;-)

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answered 19 Dec '16, 09:06

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

edited 19 Dec '16, 14:36

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question asked: 19 Dec '16, 07:18

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