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I had a sort of disheartening chat with a seasoned interpreter in Brussels last night. She said that the amount of work she is offered is dwindling at a terrifying rate. This was said along with many warnings about the on-coming of technology and how Google will inevitably replace interpreters. Does this hold true for anyone else? Is it noticeably harder to get hired now?

asked 27 Mar '13, 04:24

charlielee's gravatar image


edited 27 Mar '13, 04:51

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I've rarely heard an interpreter say they are getting more work than they used to. There are lots of reasons - they're pessimists and feel they are getting less when things are more like stable; they're modest and/or discreet by nature and play down how much work they're getting; they are guarding their territory by saying "things are bad" - usually the answer new & prospective colleagues and those changing domicile get when they start on any market; or they may even actually be getting less work - but the result is always the same. "Times are hard!" And yet... years later we're all still here. So take some of it with a pinch of salt.

That being said CharlieLee, if you are a young interpreter in Brussels there are 2 important bits of recent background you should know about.

  1. A fair number of experienced interpreters resent what they believe to be deliberate over-recruitment younger interpreters by the European Commission . Firstly as part of the Insertion scheme (80 days in the first year) and secondly because until interpreters have 250 days experience are approx. 30% cheaper. (I don't have the statistics on that, I tell you only what many people believe).

  2. 2012 was a fairly disastrous year for freelance interpreters at the the European Parliament. The interpreting budget was cut by 10%, that money was found by using staff more and thus bringing freelance recruitment down - by a third and more in some booths.

So, many interpreters working Brussels may be a bit more miserable than normal at the moment, particularly when talking to young colleagues (for which read "competition").

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answered 27 Mar '13, 16:00

Andy's gravatar image


edited 27 Mar '13, 16:19

It would seem to me that if you're not in the same booth, then you're not in the least competing with one another (for example, my A is EN, while hers is FR).

(27 Mar '13, 16:18) charlielee

I don't mean necessarily direct competition - all young interpreters might be lumped together. So in your case you may not be competition, but you're very like someone who is:(

(27 Mar '13, 16:21) Andy

Hi, Andy:

Thanks for your objective and instructive answer to this quesstion. Actually, it is not easy to have a cool and unselfish mind while considering the overall situation at the same time, esp. when talking to juniors, who might be "competitors" in eyes of some seniors. Your instruction sweeps away all the unnessary doubts of young interpreters. You deserve much applauding. This spirit is strong supportive power for sucessors to this industry.Thanks again. :-)

Best regards Paris

(27 Mar '13, 21:25) Paris Si de ...

ps CharlieLee, why not ask your other question about "Google replacing interpreters" as a separate question. There are lots of reasons that won't happen immediately (next 10 years) and they have been announcing the end of translation/interpreting in the press every couple of years for the last 20 but the answers will be too big and various to include them here.

(28 Mar '13, 06:03) Andy

As in any profession, there are also trends and cycles to be observed when it comes to work given to interpreters. Colleagues answering your question will always give you their personal account, however, this can and should not be seen as the indication of a general trend. Too much depends on the language combination you can offer, your professional domicile, on the country holding the presidency of the EU institutions, the general economic climate and much much more.

For many years AIIC has tried to make its members answer a questionnaire in order to get a better idea of what is happening in the market(s). A visit to this website will give you a lot of information. The numbers and explanations for 2010 can be found here: Thank you, Luigi, for all the valuable explanations.

Provided a statistically significant number of colleagues have returned the questionnaire for 2012, I am sure there will be a more up to date report available soon.

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answered 27 Mar '13, 14:48

AlmuteL's gravatar image


edited 27 Mar '13, 14:51


thank you, almute! she did sound particularly pessimistic. you're very much right. a dentist could be experiencing a bad year and that not indicate that dentistry is on the way out.

(27 Mar '13, 15:34) charlielee

Dear Almute:

Thanks a lot for your nice answer, which not only represents the efforts of AIIC, but also the most official report of the fact. So we know besides the psychological analysis of information source by Andy, there is factural data to give a clear picture of how really things are. We, young interpreters, are strongly backed up by AIIC, esp. seniors as you and Andy. Thanks to AIIC, to you and other seniors.

Best regards Paris

(27 Mar '13, 21:38) Paris Si de ...
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question asked: 27 Mar '13, 04:24

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