First-time posters: please review the site's moderation policy

I'm curious about the experiences of non-EU nationals who interpret in Europe. The American market is not really a place that I think my skills could be useful, so I am more interested in studying and working in Europe. Can anyone speak to the problems or benefits they've faced from working as a foreigner in the EU markets?

asked 03 Dec '12, 16:45

charlielee's gravatar image


edited 04 Dec '12, 06:29

Delete's gravatar image

Delete ♦

I'm originally from Canada but have been living and working in Europe for almost two decades now, first as a translator now as a conference interpreter.

I can't help you with any issues related to work permits or visa requirements for Americans/Canadians over here, since I have dual nationality and use my Dutch passport for all paperwork here in the EU. But I can tell you what it feels like to work as a North American English speaker in an environment dominated by UK English clients and colleagues.

I'm pleased to say that I have not had any problems at all. I have never had a client complain because I wasn't speaking a UK version of English or a colleague correct me for using Americanisms or criticise my accent. I have never heard anyone say they couldn't understand my accent, either. That might be because I speak Canadian English, which is known for being quite neutral-sounding - there might be more comprehension difficulties with a strong regional US accent, just as there are sometimes problems with other strong regional accents.

Of course, I try to be as sensitive as possible to situations where my non-UK English might cause problems. For instance, I always adapt my vocabulary to the situation. If my delegates are talking about lorries or lifts, then I am not about to say trucks or elevators, right? My Canadian family has also told me that my English has become more "anglicised" over the years that I've been away, in terms of both terminology and accent, although this hasn't been a conscious process.

There are actually quite a few North American colleagues working the interpreting "circuit" over here, so if you do decide to come over, you should feel right at home. I think most have done their interpreter training over here in Europe, although there are some colleagues who have come out of the North American schools.

There's one situation where being American might be a problem, and that is the requirement that you must be an EU national to apply for a staff position with the European Institutions. But that restriction doesn't apply to ACI (freelance) interpreters, fortunately.

permanent link

answered 04 Dec '12, 08:26

Michelle's gravatar image


That's all immensely helpful and reassuring.

I've been exploring more and more what EU passports I might be able to cash in on from grandparents or long-term study in a member state. But this makes me less eager to naturalize right away.

As for the English issue, I do feel that generally UK English and Canadian English tend to be more similar than UK English is to American English. But hopefully my years at assorted British international schools will reveal themselves while in the booth and I can find the heart to say lift and aluminium with the extra 'i'.

(04 Dec '12, 08:37) charlielee

Glad you found it useful :).

I do have one story of how my accent once got it the way of communication: I was told by a colleague that the way I pronounce "laboratory" sounds like "lavatory" to a UK English speaker. So now I just say "lab" - problem solved!

(05 Dec '12, 06:07) Michelle

I think Michelle's answer is accurate and exhaustive. For further information, you can consult the EU immigration portal:

permanent link

answered 04 Dec '12, 14:42

Alexander's gravatar image


One thing that helps a lot is that Europeans are so used to listening to North American English in films, on TV, etc., that it seems almost as natural to them as their own variety.

permanent link

answered 27 Apr '13, 08:42

isabellepetiet's gravatar image


I was going to say this:

There's one situation where being American might be a problem, and that is the requirement that you must be an EU national to apply for a staff position with the European Institutions. But that restriction doesn't apply to ACI (freelance) interpreters, fortunately.

But Michelle's answer was quite exhaustive. I will say this though: if you are of Italian descent (long shot here), you might be eligible for Italian citizenship via jus sanguinis and, by extension, EU citizenship. See here for a whole bunch of links regarding the matter. I obtained Italian citizenship in 2009 and as a consequence am able to live and work freely in any area of the EU while being a dual U.S./Italian citizen.

I'm not sure if there are other European countries who are so liberal with their citizenship requirements by way of descent but it's definitely worth looking into.

permanent link

answered 09 May '13, 13:21

a_defalco's gravatar image


Ireland has a similar nationality law, I believe. And Germany often gives citizenship within 3 generations of former German citizens, mostly jewish, whose nationality was taken as a result of the Nuremberg laws. I'm hoping to get EU citizenship through that route. Alternatively, I live in Belgium and from what I've heard Belgian nationality is not the most difficult place to naturalise. If all else fails, there is always marriage!

(10 May '13, 06:01) charlielee

Did not know this. Also very helpful info! Maybe OP has a situation where dual citizenship can be obtained.

(23 May '13, 12:13) a_defalco

'Star Trek Into Darkness' movie review Director J.J. Abrams doesn't believe in the no-win scenario. So for “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the filmmaker steeps his action-adventure in myth but wires it for power. Read and more:

permanent link

answered 21 May '13, 22:34

ghjjg's gravatar image


Your answer
toggle preview

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Markdown Basics

  • *italic* or _italic_
  • **bold** or __bold__
  • link:[text]( "title")
  • image?![alt text](/path/img.jpg "title")
  • numbered list: 1. Foo 2. Bar
  • to add a line break simply add two spaces to where you would like the new line to be.
  • basic HTML tags are also supported

Question tags:


question asked: 03 Dec '12, 16:45

question was seen: 5,512 times

last updated: 23 May '13, 12:13 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

about | faq | terms of use | privacy policy | content policy | disclaimer | contact us

This collaborative website is sponsored and hosted by AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters.