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I was browsing the new aiic website in the hope of finding a definition of sorts, but despite many references to "team leader" on the site, what a team leader is supposed to do is not defined. (BTW, the first hit appears to refer to a glossary that is nowhere to be found on the site)

Apart from a general list of tasks that a team leader is supposed to perform, I'd be interested in your views on the following:

  • Say that you operate on a market where most SI is the national language + English. Your team will be composed of 2 or 3 interpreters. Do you need a team leader?

  • Isn't the appointment of a team leader primarily meant to avoid too much friction - or contact - between the interpreters that the recruiter has contracted and the client?

  • Is there an agreed definition of the team leader's role on the institutional market, say the UN or the EU?

I am grateful for any input on the matter.

asked 10 Jul '12, 05:54

Victor's gravatar image


edited 10 Jul '12, 05:57

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck
3.9k203350's glossary will be back online soon. We are currently updating it. That said, I'm not sure our glossary definition of what a team leader does will provide the level of detail that you seek. So thanks for asking the question

(10 Jul '12, 06:03) Vincent Buck

I'll try to answer your two first questions.

As a consultant interpreter, when recruiting a team of interpreters, regardless of the number of interpreters I always appoint a team leader. It’s always easier for both the client and interpreters to have a single point of contact.

The client won’t have to answer more than once the same question, ie do you have any documents, when is the lunch break etc… And if there is a problem they know exactly who to ask. For the interpreters it is always better to rely on one colleague who will sort out any problem. So it’s not only to avoid friction or unnecessary contact between the client and the interpreters but rather, to make everybody’s life much easier.

As for your question regarding the institutional market I will let others answer you as I mainly work in the private market.

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answered 10 Jul '12, 08:56

Marta%20Piera%20Marin's gravatar image

Marta Piera ...

edited 10 Jul '12, 08:57

Thanks Marta. But how do your team leaders know what the job entails? Is it from experience or do you have a checklist? If yes, could you maybe share it with us on this site?

(10 Jul '12, 09:07) Victor

It is from experience. But will try to come up with a checklist and I'll share it on the site.

(10 Jul '12, 09:12) Marta Piera ...

...irrespective of whether in the agreement or non-agreement market, a TL - SCIC uses "HoT", for head of team ;-) - plays two basic roles, one of interface between the team and the outer world ( I cannot think of a single instance when such communications would benefit from NOT going through one single individual but rather through several or all of the team members)and the other of coordinator of the team, whenever needed - say, for dinner-consecutive rosters, etc.

I don't really think there'd be much to be gained from a checklist :-) because other than the obvious - establish contact with all stakeholders so as to open up communication channels, ie team members, organiser, session chairs, sound-engineers, venue staff, etc, check sound system and booth positioning, if mobile, ex-ante and reporting to the recruiter, if not him/herself, ex-post - everything else depends on circumstances, infinitely varied and therefore never fully predictable :-).

My aiic region once approved a TL MoU, basically enshrining common-sense, ie the TL should be the recruiter, if on the team, aiic before non-aiic, member before candidate, senior before junior... other than that, in the agreement market it's staff before freelance... and of course the local language should be given preference.

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answered 10 Jul '12, 11:33

msr's gravatar image


Dear Victor

The role of a Head of Team in a Commission meeting in Brussels is defined in a big brochure called the Meetings' Guide. (There are different rules in Parliament, but I do not know them well.) I don't know that you can find this Guide somewhere on an intranet, but it all boils down to common sense and a set of important rules. In Commission's meetings in Brussels, interpreters are entitled to a 1h30 lunch break. Works stops at 18h30 in the evening. The HoT is therefore the person who has to get in touch with the organisers to make sure that these rules and others are applied.

More than anything else, though, the role of the HoT is to be the single point of contact for everybody, to centralise and circulate information so as to avoid confusion. In the morning, the HoT reminds the organisers of the languages they will get interpretation from and into. They may ask if additional documents are available. If the organizers want to get an extra 10mn to finish a particular item on their agenda, the HoT is the one who can grant these 10mn or not. If the Spanish delegation leaves in the early afternoon, nobody else was listening to Spanish and there is no important relay in that booth, the HoT will get in touch with the administration to let the Spanish booth go home. If the sound is not good or there's a lot of feedback effect, the team will expect the HoT to get in touch with the technicians.

The HoT is therefore the one interface between organizers and interpreters, in charge of making decisions on just about any sort of incident or event that arises during the meeting.

Hope this helps.

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answered 17 Jul '12, 06:20

Fiona's gravatar image


Dear Victor

As a consultant interpreter when appointing a Head of Team for conferences I am unable to attend myself, I try to ask a colleague - irrespective of seniority - who I think would be best suited to speak to the respective client and look after the respective team of interpreters. As we all know, "chemistry" is very important, so the psychological aspects come into play as well. In tricky situations it is a good idea to brief the HoT on the history of the assignment and tell him/her about how you used to handle difficult situations (if any) with this client and/or interpreter colleagues in the past.

It is also extremely important to give very clear instructions to the HoT if it is to be expected that the situation during the conference might become tricky. Example: When negotiating the contract you agreed on a team strength that would be able to cope with the workload provided the coffee and lunch breaks would not be shortened and the conference would be over by a certain time. It's all in the general contract (a copy of which might be helpful for the HoT to have) but we all remember situations when time management by the conference chair - who might not have been informed about time restictions - got out of hand. For any such possible scenario the HoT must know beforehand what you want the team to do and how to argue their case.

It is equally important to inform the HoT concerning your policy with respect to copyright fees in case anyone wants to record part or all of the interpretation.

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answered 30 Aug '12, 17:37

AlmuteL's gravatar image


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question asked: 10 Jul '12, 05:54

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last updated: 30 Aug '12, 17:37

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