This site is no longer active. Looking for a conference interpreter? For news, events, contacts and any other information on conference interpreting, please visit us at

Hello everyone,

I have in fact three questions concerning my language combination. First of all, I shall precise my scholar background : I have just graduated from Nice University, in Foreign Languages (French license so 3 years post-high-school diploma) with English and Italian as first languages, and Russian as a beginner. I did one year abroad in Glasgow and I successfully passed the Geneva exam for a Master's Degree in Conference Interpreting with the combination mentioned in the title.

Now, here are the three questions I wanted to ask : - Is it possible to "upgrade" your language from C to B at least in English ? (and if so, is it during studies or after ?) - What types of employer could I expect to work for with this combination ? - How much time do you think I would have to wait before actually being able to work as an Interpreter ?

I apologize in advance if these are questions you often stumble upon, however, most of my teachers were not able to give me a proper depiction of the professional sector in translation and interpreting. I was supposed to have an internship in a translation/interpreting company in Monaco but it didn't happen because of COVID 19.

Ideally, my objective would be to work for the EU, the UN, or a company. I have already asked some professionals but their answers varied from "Interpreting is a dream job" to "a living nightmare". So this is why I'm asking here on If you guys think my project is unviable, or that I'm somewhat delusional about anything, please feel free to be honest. As you might have guessed, my main concern is that I'm basically going blindfolded into a career path about which I ignore most of the reality, but I have other backup plans in Law, Economics, Political Sciences, and International relationships as those were minors I had to study during my undergraduate years. To conclude this long message, I'm asking if you think my choices are viable and coherent.

Thanks in advance for reading , Respectfully yours, Jeff

asked 28 Jun, 16:32

jeff_gvnl's gravatar image


  1. Yes, but it takes a lot of work. If you don't do your MA in Conference Interpreting with the B language as part of your combination, you'd have to do it afterwards.

  2. With a FR A, EN B and IT C, you might be able to work for the EU. If you add RU, you'd be able to possibly work for the UN as well. But that would depend on a lot of factors, not the least of which is where you chose to set up professionally. (If it's Brussels or Geneva, for example). If you choose one, you wouldn't work for the other one, for the most part.

  3. Honestly, I don't know. Interpreting is an uncertain career to begin with and COVID has made it more uncertain still.

To answer your more general question, I don't recommend becoming a conference interpreter. The biggest problem in my view is that we claim to be freelancers or civil servants, but are actually neither. Actual freelancers offer a service that is broadly and frequently needed, but rarely by an individual client, thus justifying self-employment. Lawyers, doctors, plumbers, and electricians are good examples of this. When you work for a single client (or administration), you are an employee who traditionally has certain labor protections. Interpreters working for international organizations are more akin to zero-hour contract workers or "faux indépendants" who depend on a single employer, but whose employer offers them no labor protection and pays them per contract. I suppose there was a time when people (who either were privileged enough to not have to work for a living or were in a seller's market) found it glamorous. That has ceased to be the case, and now you have EU freelance interpreters demonstrating in front of their institutions begging them for some sort of aid in the COVID fallout since many of them have lost all of their income following the cancellation of most EU conferences and are also not eligible for national relief schemes. (Because they're officially international civil servants, you see, even though they're not entitled to benefits such as a regular salary, for example).

In your specific case, you'd need to already have a B language to gain traction on private markets. You'd have to consider spending time in an English-speaking country, two of which are COVID-infested (sorry compatriots) until further notice and also find a way to make money in the meantime in the backdrop of record unemployment. In order to get a UN test, you would have to have really good Russian and probably spend at least a few months in a Russian-speaking country. To be competitive for the EU, they used to require you to have 3 C languages for the FR booth, although that may have changed. In the meantime, they have stopped all accreditation tests in Brussels due to COVID. Pre-COVID it usually took a few (rocky) years for people to get established, and once established were exposed to all of the systemic shocks implicit in a zero-hour contracts situation. And that's not even mentioning the fact that you have to finish your degree and pass your accreditation tests, which is only the case of a minority, to even have a chance at working in either one of those institutions. This also doesn't account for the novelty of Remote Simultaneous Interpreting whose ultimate impact on the interpreting profession remains to be seen.

I think that doing an MA and trying to figure out how to live on the cheap in a foreign country so that you can be admitted to a test with a low pass rate just to have a chance to join a group of precarious workers who are currently on the streets begging for their lives does not make a whole lot of sense. There are other occupations that either require a lower initial investment, or a better and more secure yield for a similar initial investment to interpreting. There are also many other worthwhile demonstrations you can join already without having to do a MA. I'm not a FR booth interpreter, I am not a (major) recruiter of interpreters and I don't make a living from training interpreters, so I have no vested interest in whether you become an interpreter or not. At this stage, however, I think it's important for anyone who asks for it to receive accurate information and honest impressions so they can decide for themselves with full knowledge of the facts. Regardless of what you choose, make sure you are following your own intuition and common sense. If you think I'm totally wrong, then by all means, go for it and have a good time with it. In either case, I wish you good health, abundance, and luck for the future.

permanent link

answered 12 Jul, 06:15

Jonathan's gravatar image


edited 13 Jul, 09:29

Pour confirmer les propos de Jonathan :

  • ta combinaison actuelle ne te permettra de viser ni l'UE, ni l'ONU.

  • il vaut mieux avoir une combinaison potable avant de se lancer dans le master d'interprétation.

  • même en ayant les bonnes langues et le diplôme en poche, la probabilité statistique de réussir le test d'accréditation puis de vivre de cette activité reste très faible.

  • comment faire d'un C un B ? Idéalement, plusieurs années d'immersion dans le pays en question, et des études (non-linguistiques) dans la langue en question : éco, droit, relations internationales, sciences po,...

  • l'un dans l'autre, entre les efforts à fournir pour l'acquisition d'une combinaison viable et le temps qu'il faut pour tirer des revenus réguliers de l'interprétation (à supposer seulement qu'on arrive à perçer), tu en aurais pour bien dix ans. Pour une vie d'incertitudes et de dépendance financière, que Jonathan a très bien décrit. Si tu as d'autres choix, sans doute vaut-il mieux les explorer que de t'enfermer dans une niche qui est de moins en moins porteuse.

permanent link

answered 12 Jul, 15:04

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

edited 12 Jul, 15:06

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: 28 Jun, 16:32

question was seen: 598 times

last updated: 13 Jul, 09:29

powered by OSQA